Talk to sales
Varjo: Reduce the cost of training with immersive virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR/XR) environments to replace or supplement traditional training solutions. Varjo: Reduce the cost of training with immersive virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) or mixed reality (MR/XR) environments to replace or supplement traditional training solutions.

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality Explained

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (XR). You might have heard these different terms, but how exactly do the technologies differ? In this article you’ll learn about the differences, pros and cons of these immersive technologies and which option to choose for your business case.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Industry terms explained

Extended Reality (XR)

Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term that refers to all experiences combining reality and augmented or virtual contents. The term encompasses virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.

For Varjo, XR refers to our headsets’ ability to deliver anything between the real reality and virtual reality to the user, thanks to the flexibility of the video pass-through technology.

Immersive Technologies or Immersive Computing

A generic term describing extended reality technologies and AR/VR/XR devices, referring to the immersion of the 3D experiences as opposed to 2D screens.

Virtual reality means entirely replacing the reality you see around you with computer-generated 3D content. With head-mounted displays for VR, also known as virtual reality headsets, you’re completely immersed in the virtual simulation and cut off from the real world. This allows you to freely customize and create as many different experiences and scenarios as needed and, depending on the device, you can interact with virtual contents and objects using your hands or with your eyes.

VR headsets can be tethered to a PC, enabling a more powerful graphics. Alternatively, VR headsets can be untethered, which lowers the visual quality but allows the user to move around freely without wires. The virtual experience that you see can be anything between a photogrammetric capture of the real reality or a computer-generated scene that is 3D modeled and built with a gaming engine.

While VR headsets can provide fairly immersive experiences, they also place limitations on the space where the headset is used as the user’s ability to interact with real-world objects is limited. Collaboration with your (physical) colleagues is also limited as communicating with them and using devices in the same shared space are difficult.


Pros of VR

  • Complete flexibility in building the digital experience

  • True immersion

  • Endless virtual scenarios and experiences can be created.

Cons of VR

  • Isolated experience

  • The user is detached from their real surroundings and colleagues.

When to use Virtual Reality technology?

Virtual reality (VR) is best used in cases where professionals want to experience a completely simulated environment, including training and simulation, architecture, or immersive entertainment.

Varjo VR-3 virtual reality headset

Augmented Reality (AR)

Industry terms explained

“Hard AR”

Hard AR is the holy grail academic term used to describe a reality where you can no longer tell apart what is digital and what is real.

Field of view (FOV)

The extent of the observable world that is seen in headsets. Reported in degrees.

Augmented reality (AR) means that the user is experiencing the real reality while certain virtual elements are projected on top of it. A typical use of AR in the consumer space is smartphone applications, but there the field of view is limited by the size of the the mobile device, it occupies the users hand, and the experience is much less immersive than with a headset as you are restricted to a flat screen. These kinds of simple solutions can work great for some use cases such as games or entertainment (e.g. Pokemon Go and Snapchat filters).

Most of today’s augmented reality headsets use optical see-through based glasses that create holographic images to float in front of your eyes in a narrow, augmented window. The problem is, these images are hazy and ghostlike, because optical see-through devices can only display light, not black or opaque content. AR headsets must also make big compromises on field of view, resolution, or both.

Currently, AR glasses aren’t anywhere near reaching the goal of “hard AR.” What AR glasses or goggles lack in visual detail, they often make up for it in portability and light weight. Some AR glasses are also wireless, allowing users to wear and use them outside in the field.

P.S. If you’ve seen demo videos of AR content that does not appear translucent, this is probably because they are direct video material, not shot-through material from the headset screen. This makes the virtual objects look much better and less transparent than they actually do when using them in real situations and lighting conditions.


Pros of AR

  • Portable and usually wireless

  • Lower cost compared to mixed reality

  • Enables interacting with the reality around you

  • Can be used also outside in the field

  • Great for portraying simple content such as information overlays

Cons of AR

  • Holographic, unrealistic augmentations

  • Narrow field of view makes working with large objects difficult

  • No immersion and limited enterprise applications

When to use Augmented Reality technology?

Augmented Reality (AR) works great for scenarios where the device or glasses need to be light-weight, especially when you need an active presence and constant eye contact to your real surroundings. Example scenarios include customer service, maintenance and logistics.

Field of view comparison: Varjo VR and XR vs. typical AR headset

Below, you can see a comparison image of what the field of view is in a Varjo headset vs. a typical augmented reality headset (you can interact with the comparison by adjusting the slider).

By using video pass-through instead of optical see-through, Varjo's mixed reality device completely and convincingly merges real and virtual, making it the only device to achieve photorealism in mixed reality.
Varjo XR-3

Mixed Reality (XR)

Industry terms explained

Video Pass-Through or Video See-Through

Video pass-through means using cameras to digitize the world in real time and showing the mix of virtual and real contents to the user. Low-latency, high-resolution pass-through allows a seamless merging of the real and the virtual.

Pass-through AR

Alternative term sometimes used for mixed reality.

Mixed reality (MR/XR) combines the best aspects of both VR and AR. It is all about merging virtual content with the real world in an interactive, immersive way. In Mixed Reality, virtual objects appear as a natural part of the real world, occluding behind real objects. Real objects can also influence the shadows and lights of virtual contents. This natural interaction between real and virtual opens up a whole new realm of solutions that would not be possible with virtual or augmented reality.

Mixed Reality gives the ability to see yourself and interact with your colleagues while (for example) designing a virtual object or environment. For Mixed Reality to be valuable for professionals, it has to be convincing – blending real and virtual content to the point that it’s impossible to tell where reality ends and the virtual world begins. Mixed reality is best accomplished with video pass-through technology instead of optical see-through. With video pass-through based solutions, virtual objects can be black or opaque, and appear as solid as anything in the real world. Colors are perfectly rendered, appear just as they should and you can also add, omit and adjust colors, shadows and light in the virtual world and the real world.

All of this means that you need fairly powerful computer hardware to run these experiences. However, recent advancements in the technology have made it achievable with high-end consumer desktops so any business now has the capacity to adopt mixed reality solutions, and the business impact can be astounding. For example, Kia was able to speed up their design review process by a staggering 99%, going from several days to one hour to complete a review.


Pros of XR

  • An immersive environment that matches the reality around you

  • Best-fit for any simulations that need to reflect real scenarios

  • Provides complete flexibility of the virtual world with the reliability of the real world

  • Unlimited computing power

Cons of XR

  • Somewhat larger and heavier devices

  • Tethered: need a dedicated environment for usage

When to use Mixed Reality (XR) technology?

Mixed Reality combines the power of AR and VR. It works best in situations where you need to interact with real-world controllers and objects or collaborate with your colleagues while experiencing virtual contents, such as designs or simulations. Video pass-through-based Mixed Reality also allows the switch back to “real” reality with a click of a button.

Extended Reality devices (XR), such as Varjo, allow you to choose your level of virtuality freely in the experiences you decide to create. You can jump from 100 % real to a fully synthetic environment and back – or anywhere in between.

Simple example of how real and virtual elements can be blended with the Varjo XR-3 mixed reality headset.

Want to learn more?

Interested in using immersive technologies in your business but still not sure where to get started? Don’t worry, we have plenty of resources to help you further!

Book a meeting with our experts

Our team can discuss your goals further and help you figure out which technology is right for you.

Book a meeting

Download the e-book

Get our in-depth guide on the transformative power of VR, AR and XR.

Get the e-book

Explore case studies

See how leading companies across industries use immersive technologies to design, create, train and sell better while saving costs and improving operational efficiency.

Learn more
Airforce Patria flight simulation


XR-4 and XR-4 Focal Edition are available in our web store and through selected Varjo resellers to business customers in nearly 40 countries.


Private customers can order Aero through our selected Varjo resellers. Shipping to EU, Canada, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.


Business customers have access to our full product range.


Private customers can order Aero through our selected Varjo resellers.