VR, AR, XR - Which technology to choose?
The main difference between augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality is the following:
- Virtual reality (VR) means entirely replacing the reality a user sees around them with computer-generated 3D content.
- Augmented reality (AR) means that the user is experiencing the real reality while (typically translucent) virtual elements are projected onto it.
- Mixed reality (MR or XR) means that virtual content is blended with the real world in an interactive, immersive way and virtual objects appear as a natural part of the real world, occluding behind real objects.
When choosing between augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality, take the following factors into consideration.
- In VR, a user is completely immersed in the virtual simulation and cut off from the real world. The best-fit use cases are ones where you want a user to experience a completely simulated environment, e.g. training and simulation, architecture, or immersive entertainment. It is also a good fit for many kinds of research or classroom training where the student can remain seated and doesn’t need to move around. VR headsets are typically cheaper than AR and XR headsets.
- Most AR devices are optical see-through glasses that create holographic images to float in front of a user’s eyes in a narrow window. The image is translucent because optical see-through devices can’t display black or opaque content. What AR glasses lack in visual detail, they make up for in portability and light weight. They can be worn outdoors in the field for use cases like maintenance or engineering work. Outside of glasses, AR is also used in smartphone applications, but there the field of view and immersiveness are limited. These kinds of simple solutions can work great in e.g. games or entertainment.
- Mixed reality (MR/XR) combines the best aspects of both VR and AR. In Mixed Reality, virtual objects appear as a natural part of the real world, which is best achieved through video pass-through. The natural interaction between real and virtual enables many applications that are not possible with VR or AR. XR headsets are typically more expensive and need fairly powerful computers to run. As users can interact with both virtual and real worlds and objects, mixed reality is well suited for high-end training and simulation, engineering, design, research, and many other use cases.