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What’s the Difference Between VR, AR, MR and XR? Making Sense of It All

Concannon XRVR and AR What’s the Difference Between VR, AR, MR and XR? Making Sense of It All
Virtual vs Augmented Reality

What’s the Difference Between VR, AR, MR and XR? Making Sense of It All

20 years ago, when gamers were vigorously thumbing away at their Sega Genesis and Playstation controllers, who would’ve imagined that we’d be capable of immersing ourselves in fictional or digital worlds. The mere idea seemed like something out of a science fiction novel. 


When Virtual Reality (VR) hardware first emerged on the scene, it was highly complex, unintuitive, and costly. Today, advancements in the field have entirely transformed the capabilities of Extended Reality (XR) technology. From Snapchat filters that use Augmented Reality (AR), to VR devices such as Google Cardboard, which can be utilized to view 360-degree videos, these immersive experiences are capable of merging physical and virtual worlds. 


Now, as the XR market moves beyond gaming and into the workplace, it is forecasted to reach $209 billion by 2022. In a recent study conducted by Visual Capitalist, over 60% of respondents said they believe XR will become mainstream within the next five years. 


What continues to stump people, however, is the slew of abbreviations surrounding these digital realities. VR…AR…MR…XR – how do they differ? Here’s a look at how to define each one. 


Augmented Reality (AR)


With Augmented Reality technology, objects and virtual data are essentially laid on top of the real world. The experience is designed to enrich reality with enhanced digital details like animations, images and text – all of which can be accessed via tablets, smartphones, screens or AR glasses.


While users enjoying AR are not isolated from their real-world surroundings, they are still capable of interacting with the virtual renderings in front of them. An example of a software that uses AR is the highly popular Pokémon GO game, which uses digital simulation of the animated characters and integrates them into the real world. Similarly, social app Snapchat leverages AR as a way to create fun and interactive photo filters – like adding glasses or a hat to your face before you capture a selfie. 


Virtual Reality (VR)


Unlike AR, Virtual Reality (VR) allows users to immerse themselves in an entirely simulated digital environment. Also referred to as computer-simulated reality, a vast majority of gadgets, like head-mounted displays or VR headsets, furnish individuals with the ability to engage all five of their senses (although this highly intuitive and life-like functionality is not always baked into every program).


Providing a 360-degree immersive experience, VR has the capacity to alter perceptions – deceiving the brain into believing you’re scaling Acadia National Park’s infamous 110-foot high Otter Cliff, exploring a vibrant deep-sea coral reef or walking the surface of a fictional planet in space. 


The gaming and entertainment industries were the first to embrace this technology – even while it was still in its infancy. Today, companies spanning industries like engineering, healthcare, and construction, as well as professional athletes and the military, are beginning to adopt and integrate Virtual Reality into how they educate, train and more. 


Mixed Reality (MR)


Often referred to as a hybrid reality, Mixed Reality (MR) fuses elements from both real and virtual worlds to construct visualizations and new environments in which digital and physical objects are able to co-exist and interact with one another in real-time. MR headsets require significantly more processing power than AR or VR technology. 


In order to manufacture this hybrid experience, Mixed Reality places digital objects and imagery into your real-world surroundings, and you can (to an extent) interact with items in the physical world. Microsoft’s HoloLens is an example of an MR device that can be utilized for a myriad of applications – like production environments, architecture and home design, studying surgical techniques or the human anatomy, automobile design, laying construction blueprints over a worksite, creating virtual showrooms and more. 


Extended Reality (XR)


Think of Extended Reality (XR) as the reservoir for the entire breadth of combined virtual and real-world environments, as well as human-machine interactions. XR encompasses technologies like Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and all the interpolated areas in-between. In other words, Extended Reality acts as an umbrella, merging MR, AR and VR together under a single term. 


Generated by wearables and computer-simulated environments, XR furnishes users with an experience that captivates all the senses. Through these gadgets and technology, the line between simulation and reality blurs, as users descend into worlds enriched with infinite possibilities.

Is your organization interested in expanding your XR capabilities to engage with your employees, clients, or investors? Consult our expert team at Concannon XR, where we merge the hardware, software, and applications into one functional reality of immersive engagement.

Concannon XR