VR vs AR vs MR: What’s the difference?

Virtual Reality(VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are concepts that are often used interchangeably, but they are different technologies that provide different experiences. Here is a brief introduction to each technology.

What is VR, AR and MR? 

QA Virtual Classroom

 Virtual Reality (VR): Virtual Reality is a technology that creates a completely immersive digital environment that isolates the user from the real world. VR typically involves wearing a headset that covers the user's eyes and ears, blocking out all external stimuli, and replacing it with a fully simulated experience. Users can interact with this digital environment through the use of controllers or sensors that track their movements.

Meta Platforms (Formerly Facebook) Reality Platforms have invested heavily in VR technologies both hardware with the Oculus headset and Software such as Horizon Workrooms.

Augmented Reality (AR) or Mixed Reality (MR): Mixed reality and augmented reality are technologies that overlay digital content on top of the real world. These technologies use cameras, sensors, and displays to superimpose computer-generated images, sounds, or other sensory stimuli onto the user's view of the real world. Mixed reality is a more advanced version of AR, which allows digital objects to interact with the real world.

Both Microsoft and Apple are focusing more on augmented reality than virtual reality with Microsoft Mesh, Sharepoint Spaces and Apple augmented reality

The balance between physical reality and overlayed virtual environments and objects is a spectrum in AR/MR – Microsoft have a nice video demonstration.

One key benefit of Augmented reality is that it the virtual and real world and is accessible via smartphones or other easily accessible devices.

VR provides an immersive fictional reality but requires additional headset such as meta quest or Microsoft Hololens

How about the metaverse?

Meta Products

The Metaverse is a collective term used to describe a virtual universe, a network of virtual worlds and spaces that are all interconnected and provide users with an immersive, shared experience. It's a collective virtual shared space that is created by the convergence of virtual reality, augmented reality, and other technologies.

In the Metaverse, users can interact with each other, attend events, engage in commerce, and consume media and entertainment in a fully immersive and interactive environment. The concept of the Metaverse has been popularised in science fiction and is often compared to the fictional virtual world in the novel "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline.

 Some companies including Meta (Facebook) Microsoft and Apple are already exploring its potential, and the development of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies is bringing the Metaverse closer to reality. The Metaverse has the potential to revolutionise the way we interact with each other and consume media, and it could create new opportunities for businesses and individuals to connect and collaborate on a global scale.

The number of jobs using VR and AR is predicted to keep growing significantly. From 0.8 million in 2019 up to 23+ million in 2030.

In summary, Virtual Reality completely immerses the user in a digital environment, while Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality overlay digital content on top of the real world.

What are digital twins?

Image of a digital twin

A digital twin is a virtual replica of a physical object, people, or places. It is a computer-generated model that is connected to its real-world counterpart and is updated in real-time with data collected from sensors, cameras, and other sources.

One purpose of a digital twin is to simulate, analyse, and optimise the performance of the physical object or system. By creating a virtual replica, engineers and designers can test various scenarios and adjust without having to interfere with the physical system. This can result in cost savings, increased efficiency, and improved performance.

Digital twins are currently used in a variety of applications, including manufacturing, energy and utilities, aerospace, defence, and healthcare. For example, in manufacturing, a digital twin of a factory can be used to optimise production processes and improve product quality. In healthcare, a digital twin of a patient can be used to simulate medical procedures and treatments and aid in the development of personalised medicine.

Digital twins offer opportunities for travel and retail, allowing people to ‘visit’ a place before deciding to book a trip, or experience products in a more immersive way before making an order.

Who are the main players in VR, MR and AR?

  • Oculus VR: Oculus VR is a subsidiary of Meta (Facebook) and one of the pioneers of modern VR technology. They are known for their Meta, Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest VR headsets, which are popular among gamers and other VR enthusiasts.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft has been developing their Mixed Reality platform, which combines VR and augmented reality (AR) technology. Microsoft developed the Hololens and Hololens 2 headset and are investing heavily in a new Microsoft Teams accessible platform called Microsoft Mesh and Avatars
  • Apple have invested heavily in AR/MR and have released their own Vision ProAR/VR headset
  • Google: Google has been investing in AR/VR technology for several years, with their Google Cardboard and Daydream VR platforms being popular options for mobile devices.
  • HTC: HTC has been developing VR hardware since 2015. Their HTC Vive and Vive Pro headsets are popular in the gaming and enterprise markets.
  • Sony: Sony has been involved in VR since the release of their PlayStation VR headset in 2016. Their VR technology is integrated with their gaming platform, making it accessible to millions of PlayStation users
  • Valve: Valve is a US-based video game developer and publisher that has been involved in the VR industry since 2016. They are known for their SteamVR platform and Valve Index VR headset.

The above are just a few of the major players in the AR/MR/VR industry, and the competition is fierce. As the technology continues to develop, we can expect to see more companies entering the market and new innovations that will shape the future of VR.

What is the future for VR?

The future for virtual reality (VR) is promising, as the technology continues to improve and evolve. Here are some of the key developments that we can expect to see in the future:

  • Improved hardware: As hardware manufacturers continue to invest in VR technology, we can expect to see more advanced headsets and controllers that offer better resolution, field of view, and comfort for users.
  • More applications: As VR becomes more mainstream, we can expect to see more applications beyond gaming, such as education, training, therapy, and socialising.
  • Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI): AI can enhance VR experiences by creating more realistic and interactive environments and enabling more natural interactions between users and virtual objects.
  • Integration with other technologies: VR can be integrated with other technologies, such as augmented reality (AR) and the Internet of Things (IoT), to create even more immersive and interactive experiences.
  • Expansion of the Metaverse: The concept of the Metaverse, a shared virtual space where people can interact with each other and digital objects, is gaining traction, and we can expect to see more developments in this area in the future.

What this means for training remains to be seen, but we’re already seeing many examples of real-life business applications for virtual reality