As technology evolves, so does terminology, and it’s important to understand the differences

Until
this decade, most consumers weren’t aware of the term “augmented reality,”
though the technology existed, even if in a primitive form. Everyone was
familiar with the term “virtual reality” and likely used that as a blanket
phrase to cover all types of reality technology. But as technology evolves, so
does terminology, and it’s important to understand the difference between the
two. Throw in “mixed reality,” and you may become daunted by all of it. But the
simple explanations can be found below:

 

Virtual reality

Oculus_Rift

Image Source: Ars Technica.

The
most well-known of the three, virtual reality (VR) aims to achieve total
immersion, meaning that the user’s experience feels so real that they accept
their environment — which is not their current, real-world location — as real
and naturally interact with it as though it is real. VR requires as many of our
senses as possible to be stimulated, so head-mounted displays and special hand
accessories and controls are often incorporated into a system to provide visual,
aural, and haptic stimulation. Even if a user turns their head to “look”
elsewhere, their view of that world adjusts similarly. The technology has made
improved by leaps and bounds since some of its ‘90s iterations, and it particularly saw a surge in popularity last
year, with the unveilings of the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and HTC Vive at CES 2016.

 

Augmented reality

Pokemon_Go

Image Source: PokemonGoLive.com.

Augmented
reality (AR) turned into a buzzphrase in 2016 with the launch of Pokémon Go,
the popular smartphone game that soon led to some inappropriate behavior. Unlike virtual reality, AR takes your existing
natural environment, the real world, and overlays computer-generated content on
top of it. AR devices are often self-contained and do not need a cable to
function the way that VR devices do. Also unlike virtual reality, it is much
easier to break the illusion that the environment being experienced is real. In
Pokémon Go, for example, once a Pokémon is encountered in the real world, its
distance from the player does not change as the phone moves around. So while
the character appears to be on top of
the real world, it’s easy to realize that it isn’t actually in the real world.

 

Mixed reality

Magic_Leap

Image Source: GeekWire.

Mixed
reality, also known as hybrid reality, looks to combine the best aspects of VR
and AR by allowing the user to see the real world while anchoring virtual
objects to a point in real space to make them appear a more natural part of the
environment. Objects get bigger as the user gets closer and the perspective
changes as they move around, allowing for more realistic interactions. While
the technology has yet to see a mainstream consumer breakthrough, it could be
just around the corner. In 2016, Microsoft released a developer’s edition of
the Hololens,
the first self-contained, holographic computer that enables interaction with
digital content. U.S. startup company Magic
Leap
is also developing its own
unannounced product, though they are unlikely to reveal it at CES 2017.

 

Reality
technology has come so far in such a short time. Imagine what could come next!

Sources: Re/code, Reality Technologies