Augmented Reality

AR vs VR vs MR: What’s the Difference and Which One is Right for You?

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Extended realities like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) are innovating the world. While their presence in our daily lives increases, many people still cannot fully understand their differences. To fully comprehend the potential of these technologies, we need to understand their meaning and what they can offer. 

AR, VR, and MR technologies allow joining the digital and physical elements into one or immersing into an artificial environment and interacting with 3D objects using headsets. There is also the option of creating interactive experiences in real-world contexts with virtual components. 

These technologies have come a long way since the first virtual reality headset was created in the 1990s. The term virtual reality garnered attention in the 1980s when Jaron Lanier worked on developing gear for his virtual reality version. In 1993, SEG unveiled the first VR prototype that included goggles and head-tracking.

Virtual reality allows people to explore different worlds without leaving their homes. This article will elaborate on all things VR AR MR, including answering what does VR mean, what is MR, and everything about XR technology!

Man Using VR Goggles

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality (AR) involves connecting the digital world with the real environment by immersing digital elements into the real world. The information is overlaid, but there is no interaction between the elements in the physical and digital worlds. 

The technology enhances our physical environment by augmenting it with digital content such as 3D models, videos, text, etc. It’s seen as a game-changing technology providing users with an immersive experience that can be tailored to their needs. 

Application of AR Technology

We find AR technology in various applications and industries, from retail to furniture sales. It’s frequently used to help shoppers visualize products in their homes, change product colors or view it from different angles. 

Companies like Google, Snap, Niantic, Apple, and Microsoft all experiment with and use AR equipment. Incorporating AR technologies allows their customers a better look at the product and how it will fit into their personal space. Some popular examples of AR you encounter are Snapchat filters, the animals you encounter on PokemonGO, etc.

Some well-known examples are IKEA and Google Maps. IKEA offers its furniture shoppers a look into how a certain piece of furniture or object will fit into their home. This, in turn, speeds up the buying process. Another famous example everyone encounters is navigating Google Maps. The AR technology incorporates the digital into the real world helping tourists with pathfinding trackers for exploring a certain city. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of AR

Knowing the pros and cons of any technology allows making the right decisions when choosing what’s right for you.

Pros of AR

  • Allows users to experience interaction within a never-before-seen digital space
  • Offers an enhanced experience for shoppers
  • Enables learning new and sometimes complex things and practicing new skills
  • Enables social interaction, especially in the gaming industry

Cons of AR 

  • Creating an AR experience requires a lot of time and effort and can be expensive
  • Can bring confidentiality into question
  • It’s known to be addictive and have psychological effects

Comparing AR to Other Technologies

Comparing AR vs. VR vs. MR highlights the difference between the three. Unlike the other two, AR is not completely immersive but rather enhances the user’s experience in the real world. While VR is completely immersive and virtual, AR remains in the real world while altering and enhancing the experience. 

MR is quite close to AR as it is not fully immersive. You can use MR equipment and enjoy the mixed reality experience, but the objects you encounter will react the same as they would in the real world. 

AR is very versatile and can be used in various scenarios, from retail to advertising and marketing. Most people have encountered AR in their life because it’s so accessible. AR doesn’t require you to have expensive equipment because it can be accessed through a smartphone or tablet. 

The Future of AR

It may be the simplest version of the three technologies, but the future of AR looks bright. Considering the AR possibilities, here are some trends and what we can expect in the future:

  • AR could be used in education, allowing students to interact with 3D models.
  • Augmented reality is quite useful in the healthcare industry and will surely develop further. 
  • AR has potential applications in architecture and construction, allowing users to visualize buildings or structures 
  • The availability of new augmented reality technology will replace the currently used equipment

man Punching in the Air while in VR Goggles

Virtual Reality (VR)

VR enables a fully-immersive digital environment where the physical world is completely blocked. It uses special equipment, like goggles or gloves, enabling interaction in the digital environment. VR is popular because it enables people to explore places they’ve never visited or do activities they’ve never done before through a virtual world.

Application of VR Technology

VR technology has been around for a long time and is popular in gaming, entertainment, sports, treatment, healthcare, and education. 

VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive allow players to explore virtual worlds with full 360-degree views. Controllers like the PlayStation Move also allow players to interact with objects in the virtual environment. 

In healthcare, VR is used to treat a range of psychological disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and phobias. In such cases, VR is used to provoke realistic reactions.

Advantages and Disadvantages of VR

As AR, VR also has advantages and disadvantages that you must consider.

Pros of VR

  • VR creates a highly immersive and awesome experience 
  • Is used across various industries
  • Offers a very detailed view of a place you may wish to visit
  • Enables communication, meeting and connecting with different people
  • Helps increase knowledge and understand more complex concepts
  • Boosts the user’s creativity

Cons of VR:

  • Health and safety concerns like nausea, motion sickness and eye problems
  • Limited Interaction with the real world and reduced human contact
  • Can become very addictive, resulting in neglecting the real life 
  • Expensive Hardware 

Comparing VR to Other Technologies

Compared with AR and MR technologies, VR has the advantage of being more entrancing than AR but more affordable than MR. Evaluating VR vs. AR vs. MR ends up with VR being the most escapist of the extended realities. 

Unlike AR and MR, which share many similarities, VR provides a completely fictional reality. It requires equipment, and it has more of a sitting-down experience. While AR offers an insight into the real world from a digital aspect, VR is the first extended reality to blast into the industry with the iconic headset. 

VRs have the most potential to treat psychological disorders by providing patients with a soothing view or meditative treatment. 

The Future of VR

One key trend driving innovation in the VR industry is the use of AI and machine learning. By leveraging AI and ML, developers can create virtual experiences with enhanced graphics, realistic movement, and more interactive elements. 

Another trend in the VR industry is the development of social networks and platforms dedicated to virtual reality. With VR networks, you get a community of like-minded people where you can share and learn about new opportunities. 

Virtual reality headsets provide a look into a completely virtual, non-physical world that feels incredibly lifelike. Some popular examples of these social networks include Facebook Spaces, AltspaceVR, and High Fidelity. 

Girl using VR headset testing new device

Mixed Reality (MR)

Mixed Reality combines AR, VR, computer vision, artificial intelligence (AI), and other emerging technologies to create an interactive environment. Here users can interact with both physical and digital elements.

MR overlays 3D images or data to improve understanding, communication, collaboration, and decision-making across multiple industries such as architecture, engineering, construction, healthcare, etc. 

It utilizes hardware devices such as headsets or glasses with built-in cameras that track movement by detecting markers placed around the user’s environment. The camera then sends this information back to a PC, where it is used by software within the headset/glasses to generate 3D effects in AR applications displaying holograms over objects seen through its viewfinder. 

Mixed Reality also requires powerful software tools which take input from these tracking systems for projection on surfaces.

Application of MR Technology

The retail industry uses MR technology to create interactive shopping experiences. Customers can virtually try on clothes and accessories without physically entering a store. In healthcare, medical professionals use MR to create 3D anatomical models for patient education and surgical planning. Many businesses utilize MR to develop interactive training programs and streamline their processes with augmented reality-powered automation.

Examples of mixed reality are Snapchat and Instagram filters, makeup-adding apps, and digital furniture and clothes fitting guides. 

MR dominates the gaming world, where multiple users can play from different headsets, creating a communal virtual world. Before recently, gaming was limited to a single headset, but MR is available all around us thanks to Magic Leap. Thanks to MR, real people become part of the game and can stream on game streaming platforms, like Twitch and Youtube. 

MR can be incorporated into medical, design, manufacturing, and training programs. Popular companies collaborating through MRs include Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, etc.  

Advantages and Disadvantages of MR

Let’s review some of the pros and cons of MR. 

Pros of MR

  • Offer users increased immersion making them feel more connected to the experience
  • Provides enhanced visualization, enabling users to visualize complex concepts 
  • Offers streamlined processes by using augmented reality-powered automation
  • Improves Interaction by displaying holograms over objects seen through its viewfinder
  • Offers a very personalized and engaging experience

Cons of MR

  • High cost of equipment & software
  • An experimental technology with a limited range of content and applications 
  • Can be quite complex and difficult to use 
  • Creates an addiction to the virtual world 

Comparing MR to Other Technologies

MR experiences typically require a headset to be experienced, similar to Virtual Reality (VR). Only two types of wearables are used to provide MR experiences: holographic and immersive (encapsulating) devices. Holographic devices such as Microsoft’s HoloLens use advanced optical systems capable of projecting 3D holograms Devices such as Magic Leap are used to create new virtual worlds in your real environment so users can interact with elements. 

Unlike Augmented Reality (AR), MR combines the best of both AR and VR technology. 

Future of MR

With the support of leading tech companies such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google, MR is expected to become a mainstream technology. 

High-end MR devices like Microsoft’s HoloLens and Magic Leap show potential in numerous industries, from engineering to healthcare. They will also play an integral role in the Metaverse and showcase tech solutions for enhanced living, like wearables and tutorials. 

In addition to improving existing MR headsets, companies are exploring new ways to implement MR in daily life.

Differences and Similarities Between the Technologies

AR is more practical and widely available, and all you need is a smartphone or tablet to access it. Besides being the go-to for social media personalities, and gamers, VRs require a lot of additional expensive hardware to run smoothly. Plus, VR limits your movement, while AR can be used anywhere with an internet connection. 

It’s worth mentioning that VR is a gamer’s dream come true, offering users to experience unbelievable fantasies in lifelike digital spaces. While AR augments the existing physical surroundings with digital elements, VR replaces the entire environment with a virtual one. MR, on the other hand, uses the best of both worlds. 

MR differs as it allows users to create and share digital content within their physical environment, which is impossible with AR or VR. Despite being relatively new compared to other technologies, it has already made waves in many different areas.

Future Trends and Possibilities

Other than these three, there is a fourth reality. So, what is XR? XR is short for Extended Reality. The XR meaning encompasses all human-pc interactions with the goal of creating a twin-digital world. VR, MR, AR, and any other technology to be invented are all part of Extended Reality. 

Future trends in these technologies include advances in haptics, which will provide users with a more realistic experience and greater accessibility through standalone VR headsets. MR is expected to become widespread due to its combination of both physical and digital elements, while AR will continue to be used for gaming, entertainment, marketing, apps, and more. 

Businesses are likely to adopt these technologies to create deeper experiences for their customers and training programs for their employees. 

Choosing the Right Technology for You

How to choose the right technology for you? Here are some tips to help finalize your decision: 

  • Cost 
  • Accessibility 
  • Compatibility 
  • Mobility 
  • Applications & Usability 
  • Future trends

Before choosing AR, VR, or MR, review the technical requirements, user experience needs, and the use case. 

  • Technical Requirements: Evaluate the hardware compatibility and software capabilities. For example, some VR headsets may require powerful processors and graphics cards, which might not go with certain applications. 
  • User Experience: Evaluate the user needs and how well the technology meets those needs. Some users may find a realistic VR experience more beneficial than a visual AR experience. 
  • Use Case: Consider which technology will best meet your needs. MR is recommended for a business providing training programs, tutorials, and examples for users. It allows working with digital objects in real-world surroundings. 

Final Words

Once you evaluate the hardware requirements, user experience needs, and use case scenarios associated with each technology, consult with experts to ensure you’re making an informed decision. 

Technologies will only continue to evolve in the future. The need for incorporating each extended reality in industries increased, and it became clear there would be a growing demand for their use cases. As more companies invest in this cutting-edge tech, we can expect to see a wide range of innovative intentions. 

It’s exciting to witness how far these technologies go and how many dreams they can turn into reality!

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