Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR)… you named it! Technology has come a long way and is proposing to us its version of reality or, rather, its versions. Let’s make clear the differences between VR, AR and MR, terms that often are used synonymously but refer to different concepts.
Virtual Reality (VR)
Virtual Reality allows the user to enter in a fictional world created digitally and to fall into it completely. That is possible through proper viewers which isolate users from the surrounding environment and make the experience totally immersive.
Among Virtual Reality most popular devices there are Oculus Rift and Htc Vive, through which the individual can have a 360-degree view of the digital environment around him. The immersive experience can be increased more using devices to digitize hand movements, so to make it even more realistic. Fields in which VR is widely applied are mainly entertainment and gaming, where this kind of technology is already extensively utilised to create the most engaging gaming experiences. With VR viewers you can watch also 360-degree photos and video, by immersing in memories of the last summer or even walk through the street of a city you’ve never been before.
Augmented Reality (AR)
A different thing is the Augmented Reality technology, both for purposes and modalities. With the term Augmented Reality we refer to all the devices that enable to enrich the world around us with digital contents, especially information. The main difference with Virtual Reality is that AR viewers don’t have the aim to isolate completely the user from the environment but require the maintenance of the eye contact with the surrounding reality, while they value our “view” overlapping the information considered relevant. At first, the AR technology was used to build HUD (Head Up Display), devices for military use which allow pilots to see useful information without shifting the focus from the surroundings. A recent example is Pokemon Go application: through the smartphone’s screen it was possible to see all the Pokemon in the physical space around you. Application fields of Augmented Reality are many, from the simple view of useful information in places like train stations, museums or streets to marketing and design, but, compared to Virtual Reality, the sector is still quite unexplored.
And the Mixed Reality (MR)?
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have, obviously, some limits: the first technology is mostly bound to the kind of device (a smartphone’screen may be too small?), the other lacks totally the interaction with the real surrounding space. The Mixed Reality tries to overcome those limits by combining elements of both technologies. An example is HoloLens, a viewer developed by Microsoft which allows to go beyond the possibilities of VR and AR. With that device, the user can see the information in his visual field and, at the same time, can interact with digital objects totally integrated into the environment, which in turn can vary and engage with other elements.