What’s the Difference Between AR, VR, and MR?

AR, VR, and MR explained: Extended Reality technologies that blend digital and real-world experiences.

Jan 17, 2024
Reality is evolving. The age of digital transformation is augmenting and enhancing our world like never. With the right tools and technology, it’s possible to step into a new environment. We can combine the virtual and physical worlds or create a brand-new landscape with data.
The technology responsible for creating these new environments is called Extended Reality.
Extended Reality, or XR, is a broad term used to cover all aspects of reality-altering technology.
Underneath this umbrella definition, you’ll find augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR).
So, what’s the difference between these three terms?
Defining AR: What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality works by augmenting the world around you.
Rather than building something new, you pull virtual information into the physical world. Virtual objects can sit on top of real ones, and you can see them through an AR camera or headset.
AR used to be an advanced technology suitable only for navigation and gaming applications. Today, the accessibility of object recognition technology, plane detection, and computer vision has made AR extremely accessible.
For example:
  • These days, there are countless apps that use AR to allow users to try on outfits and makeup without visiting a store.
  • Or you can use an AR system to see what a piece of furniture might look like in your home.
  • AR can even make employees more productive by providing access to crucial data through smart glasses, so users don’t have to check instruction manuals while they work. Leading AR innovators Nreal recently revealed that it’s bringing its smart glasses to the EU and US.
  • Professionals can use AR technology for everything from advertising to manufacturing the latest technology. Upskill even offers an innovative AR platform for industrial manufacturing.
Defining VR: What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality is often the first thing that people think about extended reality. With VR, you use software and headset devices to create entirely new environments in the digital world. Using full-coverage headsets, users replace their physical environment with one created in software and displayed by a screen.
Virtual realities are artificial digital environments, but through motion tracking and computer vision, you can often interact with elements of the digital landscape just like they were in the real world. VR headsets are often used alongside special controllers to make the new environment more immersive.
Virtual reality has plenty of excellent applications in the current world, such as:
  • With VR technology, educators can provide their students with immersive learning opportunities.
  • Healthcare professionals are already using this technology to teach nurses how to read vital signs and take blood pressure readings.
  • Real estate experts can use VR environments to show people around a home. Companies like Matterport are enabling this already.
  • In the world of remote work, virtual reality can also create environments where teams can work cohesively together, as though they were in the same room.
Defining MR: What is Mixed Reality?
Currently, mixed reality is the aspect of extended reality that tends to cause the most confusion. This technology is a hybrid mixture of both augmented and virtual reality technology, blending real-world and digital elements on a new level.
Mixed reality innovations by Microsoft are opening the door for concepts like holo-presence, where people will one day be able to project holograms of themselves into the room of a colleague or co-worker.
Through tools like the Microsoft HoloLens, companies can create fully immersive experiences, enhanced by gesture controls, computer vision, and voice recognition.
Mixed realities promise tomorrow's tech fans a world where they can communicate and collaborate with their colleagues in a brand-new environment.
The interactions we have with digital technology in MR environments are far more convincing and immersive – like real life.
Although there’s a way to go before MR becomes a commonplace technology, it could have an incredible impact on the world as we know it.
Discovering New Realities with Technology
AR, VR, and MR are all technologies within the extended reality environment. Each of these innovations aims to connect the virtual world to human reality. They also work to strengthen the connection between human beings and computers.
However, while AR, VR, and MR have a lot in common, their focus is slightly different:
  • Virtual reality users can create and leverage an entirely virtual experience.
  • Augmented Reality users blend digital components with real-world experience.
  • Finally, Mixed Reality solutions provide an immersive way to interact with virtual elements in real-world environments.
Today’s AR, VR, and MR technology innovations are growing more advanced by the day. As companies continue to invest in new ways to enhance human productivity and development, blending the lines between the physical and virtual is becoming more essential.
The better we become at connecting the digital and real worlds, the more we can accomplish as a species. Already, these unique tools are transforming the way that we learn, train, communicate, and collaborate.