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What’s with all the realities! MR, AR, VR

With all due credit for its efforts to up the lifestyle game, one thing science loves to create is confusion. It has a history of making up incredibly hard names and amazingly complex jargons. Almost all emerging technologies have in inexplicable attachment with acronyms and abbreviations and have not been entirely covert about it. Furthermore, with the advance of digital computing and the development of artificial reality concepts, quite a few people have been left scratching their heads because of these multiple realities. Fear no more though, we have pulled up the layman’s explanations of all these terms for you to get your head around.  

1) Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is a realistic artificial environment which is created and interacted with in such a way that all differences between the real and digital worlds are erased. VR is about total immersion and interaction and one cannot tell whether the environment one’s experiencing is real or simulated. It may replicate a real life scene like the busy streets of Times Square or Wall Street or create an entirely new world with new laws of gravity, time, and space.  

2) Augmented Reality

Ever played with the face filters on your smartphone? That is Augmented Reality. The term “augmented” means to make greater by addition. AR is reality augmented or supplemented with graphics, sound, GPS data and touch feedback etc. The computer-generated content in AR is, however, not anchored to the real-2 world content and therefore, cannot interact and respond to it in real time. Think of it as a cute little desk toy in your display that follows the same pattern repeatedly.  

3) Mixed Reality

Confused yet? Here’s something to add to the foggy climate. MR is often used interchangeably with AR, but they are not the same! The key difference lies in the fact that MR content is tethered to the real world and is, hence, much more interactive which allows it to react to the real-world content in real time. Wikipedia calls MR a hybrid reality and defines it to be the merging of real and virtual worlds. Microsoft’s take at Holographic computing is one of the biggest advances in MR.   In a nutshell…

  • Virtual Reality is a realistic, totally immersive artificial environment accepted as a real environment. The HTC Vive HMD (head mounted display) is a great example of what VR is all about.
  • Augmented Reality is the natural world enhanced with sensory feedback. IKEA’s project to show a recipe based on the ingredients present on the table is an example.
  • Mixed Reality is the co-existence and interaction of physical & digital content where digital content responds to physical world in real time. Hardware associated with MR includes the Microsoft HoloLens.

Today, virtual reality technology is developing at an unprecedented speed. Surgeons are using it to operate on their patients, and engineers are using it during construction projects. While there are a few challenges yet to be met to make the experience totally immersive, most major lines between the real and digital worlds have been removed. From the introduction of the term in 1986, it has seen continuous growth and has a bright future ahead.

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