Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality: What Are They And The Differences?

The advance of technology is unstoppable. Just a few years ago, no one could have imagined that we would be able to connect to social networks, websites, and other platforms from anywhere in the world thanks to our cell phones. Nor did we suspect that having a heart rate monitor, pedometer, and notification receiver on our wrist would be possible for so many people. Of course, these are just two examples of how the technological landscape has changed, especially if we look at consumer electronics. But it doesn’t stop there.

Just a few days ago, we told you about Facebook’s plans to create a parallel reality in the form of a metaverse. This is a project that is in a very early stage. Mark Zuckerberg himself does not know very well if this new digital universe should be accessible through virtual reality or virtual reality. Both modalities have come a long way in recent times and offer a wealth of possibilities. And to these two we must add mixed reality. What are the differences between each of these technologies? If you want to know what virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality are, we will tell you in this article.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a system that allows the user to enter a virtual world with total immersion. Sometimes it is identified as VR, which stands for Virtual Reality. Several technologies are used to achieve an inclusive experience. For example, the user must wear glasses with a specific design. With them, they can visualize the virtual world environment and move through it. The latter is made possible by a set of sensors, such as altimeters and accelerometers. As expected, a noise-canceling audio system is also required, so that everything the user hears comes from the virtual reality system and not from the outside. Video, audio, and motion are all controlled by the same device.

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Virtual reality is mainly used in the world of video games and entertainment. In this way, the player stops interacting with the controller and the screen and starts interacting with his or her movements. Depending on the type of game, it will be important that the user is in a space specifically set up for playing.

Now you know that virtual reality seeks, thanks to different video and audio devices, an inclusive and fully immersive experience in a computer-created world. But not all virtual reality systems work in the same way. There are at least two different types of virtual reality.

  • Passive Virtual Reality: This type refers to the possibility of introducing the user into a virtual world, but without being able to interact with it.
  • Interactive Virtual Reality: In this case, the user, in addition to being inside the parallel reality, can control the objects he/she sees or move around the virtual space available.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality, also called AR, is a technology that provides information to the user through digital elements projected on the real world. The data displayed is naturally integrated with the environment in which it is located. This is a fundamental difference with virtual reality.

Augmented reality does not seek to isolate the user. Rather, it leverages the real world to provide information and data in the context of what is happening. To use augmented reality it is not necessary to purchase a specific device, as is the case with virtual reality. Any cell phone is capable of running AR applications.

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A good example of augmented reality is the Pokemon Go game, which uses the camera and GPS locator to overlay information onto the real world. It is also used by companies such as IKEA, which uses its app to decorate a room by adding furniture virtually. In both cases, it is necessary to use a cell phone. However, in some fields, devices that allow the use of augmented reality in a more natural way, such as glasses, are already being used.

What is Mixed Reality?

Mixed Reality

Mixed reality, also known as hybrid reality or MR, proposes a fusion between the two types of realities we have already discussed. MR introduces virtual objects into a real environment, coexisting with the elements that are already in the physical space. Thanks to mixed reality, the user can interact with real and virtual elements indistinctly. In addition, the new images introduced into the scene also interact with the environment. And that is precisely the key point of MR. The real world and the virtual world merge into one.

MR requires devices similar to those used in virtual reality. Therefore, it is necessary to purchase headsets or goggles. In some cases, it may also be necessary to use a headset.

Extended Reality: What’s Coming Next

Extended Reality

We end by telling you about a novel concept called extended reality. It is also identified by the acronym XR. The extended reality proposal involves bringing together the technologies we have discussed here. Thus, it would be a matter of combining all environments, both real and virtual, and controlling them based on the user’s interactions. Extended reality is a kind of umbrella that encompasses virtual reality, mixed reality, and augmented reality.

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It is likely that in the future we will leave all the terms mentioned in this article behind and simply talk about extended reality. In the meantime, the three types of computer-generated realities remain separate and each serves a specific purpose. These technologies are constantly evolving and, little by little, are being applied in more fields. Currently, the most widely accepted is augmented reality, as it does not require a large investment. Most of today’s cell phones are compatible with AR systems.

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