Augmented and mixed reality: what’s the difference?

By now, you’re probably at least somewhat pretty familiar with the major differences between augmented and virtual reality. The –reality confusion doesn’t stop there, though; companies have been throwing around the term “mixed reality” to describe products like HoloLens and Bridge. Trying to keep up with the distinctions between VR/AR/MR can be nearly as mind-boggling as the alternate reality tech experience itself, so I’ll try to keep things simple!

Mixed reality makes use of physical space

Augmented and mixed reality can be particularly confusing because they’re so similar. Unlike their virtual counterpart, both incorporate aspects of the real world (RR for Real Reality?). Both alter users’ view of the world in some way, but mixed reality does this seamlessly by anchoring virtual elements into your actual environment.

Confused? Think of it this way: Pokemon Go! is the most famous example of augmented reality. Players’ landscapes are augmented by the game’s overlay and the ability to catch a Zubat flying around your office.

On the other hand, Pokemon Go would be considered mixed reality if you could stand up, walk around the Zubat, and view it from different angles as if it were a 3D object actually in your office. Additionally, mixed reality would enable you to leave your office, grab a bagel, and come back to the Zubat still flying around your desk…unless MR animal control finally took care of it, of course.

The anchoring of virtual objects is the key difference between AR and MR. It’s also what makes MR more of a realistic experience. This distinction suggests that AR could be more helpful for something like an iOS overlay (newsfeed, texts, Maps, Facetime, etc) while MR is an asset in terms of gaming and design. Both concepts are still fairly new, so it will be interesting to see how they play out.

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