AR, VR and MR: What's the difference?

Making sense of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) and how they work

It’s no denying it; digital realities are a part of our future and it’s pretty much here already.

They are definitely still in their infancy, so lucky for us it isn’t too late to bring yourself up to scratch about the three big pillars of the technology, and fully understand how it’ll integrate itself into our lives and benefit us.

Plenty of these digital renders have been seen in movies, which are the best way of introducing these technologies. From the virtual reality (VR) we see in the Matrix, to the augmented reality (AR) in Iron Man and mixed reality (MR) in Minority Report (whose initials are MR as well, incidentally), it’s applications have been portrayed for a long time. Read on for more about the realities that will soon be a big part of our daily lives.

Virtual Reality

This is the more straightforward of the three, but this doesn’t mean it isn’t as exciting. It’s as cool as it gets.

VR immerses you in a digital realm, and allows you to interact and explore a virtual world. For now, it’s performed by putting opaque goggles on, and looking at the digitally rendered images through a screen that’s positions in front of special lenses in the goggles. These can be smartphone screens fitted on VR headsets like Google Cardboard, to special models connected to PCs, like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive

In movie talk, this is basically the Matrix, where the user is completely transported to another realm which has no relation to the actual world we live in. You can be transported into space, alien planets or the mall down your road – the possibilities are endless. It represents the future for so many lines of work, entertainment, you name it.

Getting into VR today can be cheap, from RM15 in fact. They also go up to the thousands, with headsets linked to computers that give you a far more immersive and detailed experience. In the future, VR could find itself in digital tourism, where friends meet up to “travel” via headsets in virtual realms. It could expand further into nanotechnology by incorporating more senses, like touch and smell, brain transfer if you will – we’re coming closer to a future where we essentially lose track of what’s real (insert Morpheus’ quotes).

But for now, less worryingly, we can look forward to VR entertainment and games that are going to be longer, more detailed and better. 

Augmented Reality

Pokémon Go, Snapchat and now InstaStory; you’ve probably used some form of AR before.

AR doesn’t bring you into a virtual world, but adds digital artifice into our own. When you look through a screen, or AR goggles, you will see some form of visual overlay, like the HUD in a video game. This may be a speedometer that appears on your windscreen, face-swop, or a Pikachu appearing in front you on your phone. Essentially, virtual content and our world don't interact and are still separate. 

Think Iron Man and the display in his mask. He doesn’t interact with it but it provides him with information that’s digitally implanted into his vision.