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What is the difference between Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality; and how can they benefit your business?

The real world (RW) is the world that we live in and interact with.  The Virtual World (VR) is at the other end of the spectrum to the RW.  VR is effectively the world inside of a computer and consists of lots of data with meaning (information).  Traditionally we have interacted with the Virtual World using a computer terminal where we view the VR world with a screen.

How does Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality fit into the Real World and the Virtual World?

With the Real World and the Virtual Worlds there are clearly defined lines that separate them so it is easy to tell the difference.  The Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality worlds start to blur the line between the two worlds.  The diagram below shows the link between Real World, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and Virtual Reality.

Virtual Reality is purely a digital environment that a user can immerse themselves in through the use of a headset that completely block out their vision of the real world.  The environment is completely computer driven.  The image below shows a perspective of what VR is like.   (Letxter, 2016).

Augmented Reality is closest to a computer screen and therefore it sits closest to the Real World from the various options.  Essentially AR is a way of viewing the virtual world as if it appears in the real world.

For example, the recent Game “Pokemon Go” is an AR application that works by using a mobile device to find fictional creatures in the virtual world depending on your location in the real world.  When a fictional creature is discovered it is shown on the mobile device screen looking as if it is sitting in front of you but not interacting with the real world.

Augmented Reality is often used on television in sports analysis where the production team overlay analysis like the flight of a ball or player movement, on to the real world footage, Figure 3 shows  a football game with analysis of the ball and player patterns.  (Ram, 2016)

The key take away from Augmented Reality is that it is augmenting your world by providing you with information from the virtual world, on the go.

Mixed Reality is similar to Augmented Reality but the key difference is the “Mixed” part.  It allows virtual items to interact with real world items.  The term Mixed Reality can be traced back to research carried out by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino in 1994.  They published a paper called “A taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays”.  (Kishino, 1994)  In the paper, they defined Mixed Reality as “a particular subclass of VR related technologies that involve the merging of real and virtual worlds”.

An example of viewing the world through a Mixed Reality device like the Microsoft Hololens, is the game “Ball Pit”.  In the game virtual balls appear to roll down the real world stairs.

Virtual Reality and particularly Mixed Reality is a massively growing market and all industry and consumers are starting to embrace it at an ever growing rate.  Google trends show a five fold increase in searches on Mixed Reality in the past year alone  (Billinghurst, 2017).  It appears that now is the time to embrace the VR, MR, and AR worlds to catapult your business forward.


Billinghurst, M. (2017, 03 31). What is Mixed reality? Retrieved from Startup Grind:

Kishino, P. M. (1994). A taxonomy of mixed reality visual displays. IEICE Transactions of Information Systems, 15.

Letxter, R. (2016, 04 6). My brain did something crazy and totally new in virtual reality. Retrieved from Buisiness Insider UK:

Ram, G. (2016, 09 16). How can Augmented reality be usd in sport? Retrieved from Affinity VR:

Comments 3

  1. Thank you for listing the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality. That is good to know that virtual reality is a purely digital environment that a user can immerse themselves in through the use of a headset. I’m glad that it is a growing market and you can use it to help your business. We will have to see if we can integrate it into our business.

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