Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR): Definitions and Use Cases
Virtual reality (VR), Augmented reality (AR) and Mixed reality (MR) are new emerging technologies that are here to revolutionize the world across sectors. You would have likely come across these terms, perhaps without knowing what they are or how they affect you – so let’s jump right in and shed some light on the subject.
First, some definitions:
Virtual reality is a computer-simulated environment that produces real-life visual experiences, whereas Augmented reality is the enhancement of the real physical world using digital elements. As you might have speculated, Mixed reality is the combination of both VR and AR. From high-performance industrial works to convenient online shopping and better-quality education, what can be achieved with the right implementation of VR, AR and MR seem countless. To better understand these technologies and how they work, we have put together a guide on their advantages and differences, where you might have interacted with them in the past to give a glimpse of what the future with them might look like.
Virtual Reality can be non-immersive (think video games), semi-immersive (a common example are flight simulators), or fully immersive (right now there are no completely fully immersive examples but technology is fast getting there).
Through the help of a VR device such as a VR gaming headset or helmet, players can explore, control and get immersed in a 3D environment. Once the user puts on a VR headset, the world around him is substituted by virtual reality content projected on the display screen. Sensors, lenses and screens all are a part of VR headset that provides a life-like or real-life experience of the game. More immersive hardware also supports smells, sounds and feelings such as heat or cold such as a 3D mouse, wired gloves, motion controllers, and omnidirectional treadmills.
Real-life applications of VR
- Students can feel like they are being transported to a battlefield or a historical site such as a museum.
- Imagine taking a field trip to Mars via 3D goggles! The vivid and memorable scenery would without a doubt amplify engagement much more than a traditional textbook could.
- With a VR headset and application, you could virtually sit in a stadium in Tokyo, Japan watching live Olympic events — looking left, right, and straight ahead the same way you would in a physical stadium from the comfort of your home.
- If you’ve ever taken a Rollercoaster with 3D googles on, you’ve experienced VR
- Don’t have a tennis court? With 3D goggles, you can feel like you’re in a tournament since you have to beat the other player by moving your body and swinging your racket – also making it quite the workout!
- VR is already used in medical training for diagnosis, therapy and even surgery.
- VR brings a calming solution for patients with anxiety in which they can be shown calming views on a VR device while being prepared for surgery.
- Medical students can visualise human anatomy to understand the body better.
- Such as an inspection app we designed for the National Environment Agency for training inspectors to survey properties and speak to homeowners regarding dengue.
While in virtual reality, the user is completely separated from the actual life and is immersed in an environment created with digital technology, in augmented reality real-life scenarios are enhanced by adding digital elements or overlays via computer technology.
Just like VR, AR’s applications are widespread across education, business and more. AR-based technology has grown multifold in the past years.
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When it comes to the hardware needed to implement AR, a device as simple as a phone’s camera is enough to capture the real-world environment so inputs generated by the software can be overlaid. These inputs could be still graphics, audio or video. In addition to a depth-sensing camera, tools, such as motion sensors and accelerometers are required to determine the space where digital objects should be placed. Finally, a display device as simple as a monitor can be connected to view the output.
Real-life applications of AR
- Pokémon Go – In the game, players catch Pokémon that seem to be found in the real world, by looking into their phones.
- IKEA where the furniture store allows its app users to visualize products by placing them in their home environment.
- Snapchat filters or Interactive profile pictures and videos
- Corporate team engagement games such as TBIT.
Mixed or hybrid reality is the blanketing of digital objects onto the real world allowing both real and digital worlds to exist and interact together. With the development of MR technology, the barrier that seems to exist between the virtual and the real world is breaking down and blurring lines through their interactions with each other.
Major tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Intel and others have already started creating the potential for mixed reality-based projects in the future. Their main area of focus remains on using MR for remote working, interactive training, marketing and sales-boosting and not to forget, healthcare assistance.
In every sector where AR finds its application, MR can be implemented, with better results.
Advanced artificial intelligence technology is used to process data of a given space and generate information to create a holographic image that melds seamlessly with the environment. A great example is the Microsoft Hololens which creates holograms by using multiple sensors and advanced optics for holographic processing.
Real-life applications of MR
- MR helps engineers assemble complex components step by step through the aid of MR glasses such as the Microsoft Hololens
- It helps car manufacturers such as Ford superimpose new design features onto their existing cars before deciding whether to proceed with development.
- Medical students can study and examine human anatomy through a life-size 3D image without the difficulty of organs obstructing as it would in a cadaver.
- A lifelike hologram of John Hamm was created for the Sundance Film Festival and of Buzz Aldrin for SXSW. 8i, is the mixed reality company behind the Holo app that made this possible.
- The metaverse – social interactions are conducted in immersive and precise 3D virtual spaces.
Indubitably, VR, AR and MR are among the hottest technologies in the tech world. Immersive technology is a result of enormous research and decades of labour. They are not just here to stay but are here to transform the way things are done in every sector. From education to entertainment to industrial application, the world is becoming more of a VR-AR-MR world. These realities are certainly changing the way of living and working. The world of science fiction that we see in movies is certainly getting closer and closer with the innovations taking place in this arena.