The differences between Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR)
By now the term 'virtual reality' is familiar to most people. But the terms 'augmented reality' and 'mixed reality' may be less well-known, but they are certainly no less important. In this blog we explain the differences between virtual, augmented and mixed reality, and we show through a number of practical examples what you can use these applications for.
Virtual reality, perhaps the best known of the three, is seen as a fully simulated, digital world. This means that no images of the real world are shown in the virtual world. Think of virtual reality, for example, of a game that you are playing. You are completely in a simulated world and can move in all directions.
Virtual Reality is currently still the most used for gaming applications. It is noticeable that the general public is becoming more and more accustomed to virtual reality, because the major game development studios such as Ubisoft and Valve are also increasingly releasing an exclusive triple-A VR game that you can only use with a VR headset. (think of the new Half-Life: Alyx).
But now there are also a lot of other applications for virtual reality. For example, virtual reality is frequently used at companies to, for example, train the staff (or other involved). Think of KLM, which has recreated a virtual cockpit to guide (starting) pilots.
A little less known, but certainly no less used, is augmented reality. This application superimposes a digital representation (in some cases in the form of an elaborate hologram, in other cases in a simpler form such as some data) over a glass making it a combination with the physical world.
One of the best-known augmented reality headsets at the moment is the Microsoft Hololens 2. These AR glasses can display full holograms lifelike, allowing you to really combine the real and virtual world. The Velicus company, for example, makes good use of this by offering CPR courses with the Hololens 2. As a user, you put the Hololens 2 on your head and a 'virtual patient' is programmed on the floor. You can then go through the resuscitation steps on this patient.
An additional application of augmented reality, and one that has been increasingly used by companies in recent times, is 'remote assist'. With remote assist, you as a user have AR glasses on (such as the Vuzix M400) and someone else can watch remotely via the built-in camera. Think, for example, of an electrician who comes to repair something at home, but does not know exactly what to do when replacing a certain part. When wearing AR glasses, he can enlist the help of a specialized colleague who can watch from his phone or tablet and give instructions remotely (both via audio and via a built-in screen in the glasses).
Finally, we can speak of Mixed Reality. Mixed reality is a combination between the physical world and the virtual world. Where augmented reality is really an 'overlay' between the two (eg using holograms), mixed reality is more of a physical combination.
A good example of this is the recently released Varjo XR-3 headset. This headset (XR stands for Extended Reality) uses two cameras on the front of the glasses. When a user has the headset on, he can look at the real, physical world through these two cameras. It is then possible to bring a digital (VR) object into the real world through the glasses.
For example, the car manufacturer KIA recently launched a nice application in which users could call up a digital model of the latest car in a large, empty garage using the Varjo XR-3. In that case, the users are physically in an empty parking garage and see nothing at all without a VR headset on. But when they do wear the VR headset, they see the latest model and can touch it and walk around it.
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