Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, refined reality – many concepts that describe seemingly similar things. You’ve probably heard at least some of them. Have you ever wondered what they mean? What are the differences between them? Why is there so much “reality”?
The exact definitions of these “realities” are still constantly changing as this type of technology develops. The whole story is quite complicated, especially when it comes to augmented, mixed and refined reality, because there are many overlaps, and the boundaries between these different realities are not sharp, but enter into each other.
In this article I will try to provide you with the most accurate overview of all realities, describe them individually and compare them with each other in order to give you the best possible insight into the virtual world.
Augmented reality (extended reality-XR)
We’re going to start an augmented reality story. It is a term that actually encompasses other forms of “reality”, and XR itself is used as a term that connects these different types of reality. It includes virtual reality (VR), refined reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR).
XR technologies work by expanding the real world we find ourselves in in several different ways. Depending on how XR modifies the real world, it gets a name.
Augmented reality itself is a very interesting and useful tool that we can use in various aspects of our lives. Whether it’s working remotely, coaching for a new job, online marketing, or simply having fun and leisure, XR provides us with opportunities that until recently were almost unimaginable.
Now let’s look at the differences between the realities that we count in XR.
Virtual reality (VR)
Few today have yet heard of virtual reality. This is exactly the most common form in which we find XR. It is a technology that allows us to interact with fully digital, artificially created worlds. We can think of them as interactive parallel worlds that we can visit and dwell in.
It is important to note here that such a one world is completely artificial. It was created digitally and all the objects contained in it, including your avatar, are also artificial and digitally created.
In order to access such a virtual world, you will need VR glasses. These are various devices that serve to display virtual worlds. Furthermore, you will need controllers that will allow you to interact with various virtual objects located in the virtual world you are visiting.
Virtual reality is now used primarily for entertainment in the form of various video games. However, there are various other fields where VR has a future. As an example, we can take the use of VR in training and education. As a rule, it is very suitable for such use because it allows you to train for dangerous jobs and provides the opportunity to make mistakes without any major consequences for yourself or others. If you’re interested, you can read here about how alumni from Harvard organized an annual gathering in the metaverse.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Refined reality is the most widespread form of augmented reality today. You may not even be aware, but chances are high that you’ve encountered this technology before without even knowing it was AR. How is that possible?
Refined reality, as the name suggests, is technology that serves to refine reality. Unlike virtual reality, AR takes the real world and inserts digitally created content into it. AR applications insert virtual visual and other information into the real world to advance it, whether it’s aesthetically or otherwise.
The refined reality is very accessible today. It is easiest to access through smart phones. A good example of AR is Snapchat filters (or in any application that provides this type of service). They take your face that is in the real world and put various virtual objects over it or change it in some way. The Pokémon GO mobile game is also an example of refined reality.
In addition to smartphones, today we are investing in the development of AR glasses (also called “smart glasses”) that have incorporated AR technology into them. They offer additional opportunities because if we access AR with them, our hands remain completely free.
Refined reality, much like VR, can be applied to many areas, such as education and entertainment. It should be noted that AR plays a potentially big role for the future of navigation. At some point, you’ll be able to use the camera on your cell phone to scan buildings or track virtual arrows to make it easier to navigate the space.
If you are interested in more about AR in fun and leisure, you can read our article about the interesting AR book Legend – Between Gods.
It’s important to note that the refined reality is on the mixed spectrum more on that in the next paragraph.
Mixed reality (MR)
With mixed reality , the situation is somewhat more complicated. The very definition of MRI is quite flexible, but basically it is a combination of virtual and refined reality. In MRI, we can establish interaction with both virtual and real objects. It combines virtual and real objects and thus creates new virtual environments in which we also find virtual, artificial and real-world objects that are simulated in the virtual.
The easiest way to figure out what mixed reality is to give you one concrete example found in our more detailed MRI article (if you’re interested in more, the link is at the beginning of this paragraph).
“Imagine you’re sitting in your room or office. You’re wearing an MRI hedset. With it, you can interact with digital content, such as a split document that is updated in real time via the cloud, or a digital 3D prototype you’re currently working on that you can experiment with. At the same time, as you work with virtual objects, you can see all the physical objects that surround you in the real world like tables and chairs, and you can put digital objects on them.”
People often mix mixed and refined reality. They seem similar, and in certain respects they are. We can say that refined reality is part of a mixed reality. You’re probably feeling a little confused right now, but it’ll be clearer soon.
Specifically, mixed reality is actually a spectrum of reality that lies between the real world and virtual reality. Depending on how much of a reality is virtual, we assign it a name that describes it.
In other words, the name “refined reality” tells us that it is primarily a real world that is enriched by a small proportion of virtual objects. We can look at it as a world that is made up of 75% real component and 25% virtual component. This is manifested in the form of virtual objects in the real world.
On the other hand, there is refined virtuality. It is a world that is primarily virtual, and is enriched with a small proportion of real objects (which are digitally simulated). We can see this as a world that is made up of 25% real component and 75% virtual component. This manifests itself as real objects in the virtual world.
It should be borne in mind that the names “mixed reality” and “refined virtuality” are often used synonymously, so you will often come across the term mixed reality, and that in fact the refined virtuality is described.
Mixed reality, like others, can be used for different things. Perhaps the most significant application of MRI could be achieved precisely in the business world for remote work, where it could enable real-time cooperation at a distance with two different ends of the world. For example, they could have doctors who operate in Zagreb, and are assisted by experts from Japan or the USA.
For the end
As you can see, the current definitions we have today for these various kinds of realities are quite complicated. There is easily confusion and mixing of these concepts.
I hope this article has made your life a little easier and improved your understanding of augmented reality and its various versions.