XR, AR, VR, MR: What’s the Difference in Reality?
What does the term “eXtended Reality” mean? It refers to technologies designed to either replace or enhance your view of the world around you. Devices can achieve this by adding or overlaying digital graphics and text into both virtual and real-world spaces. Some technologies may even utilize both approaches.
Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) may all be described as XR. Requirements and features may overlay across all three ‘realities’, but each one has specific applications and underlying technologies.
XR is likely to perform a critical function within the metaverse, which is considered to be the Internet’s next evolution: it will combine real worlds, digital worlds, and virtual worlds into entirely new realities. And users will access these through gateway devices, including smart glasses (AR) and headsets (VR).
XR technologies have certain core similarities. A major part of any wearable XR device is the range of visual input methods (e.g. gesture, gaze, and object tracking) utilized to explore the world and view context-sensitive details. Location and depth features enable mapping and depth perception, too.
But XR devices differ based on use-case complexity and the type of VR, AR, and MR they’re designed for.
Augmented Reality (AR) Explained
AR can enhance your experiences in the real world by overlaying information (generated by a computer) over your vision. This technology is incredibly common in popular AR apps for smartphones, but users need to hold their device up in front of them to use it. Taking an image from the device’s camera and processing it in real time enables the app in question to present contextual details, or social and gaming experiences, that seem native to the real world.
AR for smartphones has gotten significantly better in the past 10 years or so, but there are some big limitations to its applications. More creators aim to provide users with a holistic experience of AR technology via smart glasses. They need to combine multiple sensors (for tracking and depth perception) with ultra-low-power processing within a product that’s light enough for users to wear for hours at a time.
Additionally, smart glasses incorporating AR require intuitive, always-on navigation while users are out in the real world. As a result, enhancements in a number of features are necessary. These include semantics, orientation, location, eye tracking, gesture tracking, and occlusion (i.e. an object obscuring other objects from the user’s view).
Virtual Reality (VR) Explained
VR can replace a user’s view of the world around them entirely with a virtual space generated by a computer. While this form of XR technology has been available for some time, gradual improvements have made it more accessible to average users.
VR is mainly utilized for entertainment, allowing users to play games or experience films in a new way. However, VR is also gaining momentum in the social-media world. Immersive VR entertainment applications will need advanced capabilities such as volumetric capture, HD rendering pipeline, and facial-expression capture.
Organizations may also use VR for education, training, and certain healthcare fields (such as rehabilitation). VR technology needs to ensure that users enjoy a seamless experience, which means the emphasis is usually on crisp video, quality rendering, and ultra-low latency.
Furthermore, VR devices are also improving video conferencing via RecRoom and other platforms, bringing users together virtually
While a number of VR devices require tethering to a PC to function, the Oculus Quest 2 and other standalone devices can bring users AAA metaverse and gaming experiences without tethering.
Mixed Reality (MR) Explained
As MR blends real and virtual environments, this technology falls in between AR and VR. There are three main user applications for this form of XR tech. The first incorporates a wearable AR device or smartphone, with virtual characters and items superimposed into spaces in the real world — or vice versa.
For example, the phenomenally successful Pokemon Go game, which became a global hit in 2016, overlays virtual characters into real-world locations through smartphone cameras. While many have praised this as an innovative AR game, it’s actually a wonderful example of the potential of MR, as it mixes computer-generated items with real-world spaces brilliantly.
Additionally, MR is also starting to be used in another fascinating way: allowing real-world users to become superimposed into games, bringing popular figures to game-streaming sites like YouTube and Twitch.