In a world where innumerable technologies are introduced frequently, virtual reality is one name that keeps coming to everyone’s mind these days. This virtual world has been extended in all industries, be it gaming, entertainment, real estate, fintech, art, or sports.  

However, as technology advances, it is no longer just about augmented and virtual reality. Now, there is an alphabet jambalaya of metaverse acronyms. Because of these many acronyms, they are often used ambiguously, making things more confusing. 

If you ask a non-techie, from their perspective, whether it’s AR, VR, MR, or XR- all these are digital contents presented to users in an immersive way. 

“Virtual Reality” and “Augmented Reality” are definitely not new; these are the torchbearers of the immersive world. However, with all of the buzz surrounding the Metaverse, two new words, “mixed reality” and “extended reality,” has entered the world of immersive technology. 

Are you also as confused as I am about the difference between all four terms? 

If yes, this article is surely for you. 

You are not the only one who is all muddled up by these acronyms that are in the air these days. It is this tech industry that has not been precise and often uses overlapping and conflicting language. 

Being a technical writer, I had to understand the differences among these acronyms. After some research, this is my take on AR vs. VR vs. MR vs. XR.

Let’s get over this confusion together!

Dive Into an Immersive World!

One thing common among all these acronyms is the word “Reality”; ironically, this technology isn’t real. 

One more thing: the term “immersive” is at the top of all these terms. But what do you really understand by the term “immersive”?

Immersive media is digital content that is presented to users from the perspective of one person, creating the illusion that the user is present inside the content rather than observing it from the outside. 

This immersive thing, or “the sense of presence,” is one common attribute among all these terms. 

Let’s understand this with an example- you must have seen people arguing about shapes and colors. One person will think it’s a complete circle, while according to the other, the circle is a little compressed from the top. 

One person thinks it’s a dark blue color, while the other thinks it’s black. This happens because we all perceive the world differently. We all process information in our heads and construct a reality that is unique to all of us. 

This is why we humans confuse “Reality” with the physical world, and that is why virtual reality feels so real even if it’s not.  

To experience this immersive reality, you have to wear a VR headset. 

With a VR headset, you can feel present in the digital environment. There are people that literally run out of the VR room, even though they are aware that it’s not real. 

So, what really happens is that the digital information overpowers your senses saying “this is not real”. But, for your body, at that moment, it is real. 

There is one word for it, “Virtuality Continuum”, that demonstrates the full spectrum of possibilities between the physical world and the virtual world. 

Surprisingly, this concept of the Virtual Continuum is very old, it traces back to the year 1994 when researchers Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino for the very first time introduced this term.  

At first, it was VR vs. AR

AR vs VR vs MR vs XR

Initially, it was Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Both the VR and AR terms are flying around for decades now. The word VR (Virtual Reality) found its existence in the year 1980 and AR (Augmented Reality) emerged in the early 1990s. 

The prime difference between AR and VR is where the user feels present. 

In virtual reality, the user feels fully present in a simulated environment, whereas in Augmented reality the user will experience a combined world of real and virtual content. To achieve a VR or AR experience the user has to interact with the virtual content in a natural way. 

But, don’t mix up virtual reality with 3D simulations and 3D movies. Also, don’t think of AR as a “Heads-up display” (HUDS).

To continue, here is the definition for you:

Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive and interactive simulated environment that is experienced in the first person and offers a strong sense of presence to the user. 

Augmented Reality (AR) is also an immersive and interactive content that is spatially listed to the real world and experienced in the first person, offering a strong sense of presence within a combined environment. 

VR devices like the Oculus rift and Samsung Gear VR created quite a buzz back in the day. Now, this technology is established with many emerging competitors in the market like HTC Vive, Valve Index, and Oculus Quest. 

In the case of Augmented Reality, Apple is playing big with its AR smart glasses, which are planned to hit the market in early 2026. 

Tango-the Google Project also did a massive contribution to promoting AR technologies. The Tango supporting devices have sensors that process the data of the exact location and object. 

Now Enters XR and MR

AR vs VR vs MR vs XR

For years, VR and AR dominated the field. However, in present times some new acronyms are becoming popular. These are Extended Reality (XR) and Mixed Reality (MR). 

XR is seen getting promoted more by the hardware and software makers as they are producing a system that can support both virtual reality and augmented reality. 

So instead of using “Virtual and augmented reality”, an unwieldy language, the term “Extended Reality” seemed a more convenient and catch-all phrase to the work that targets both.

By definition,

XR is a Real-and-virtual environment created through computer technology and wearables. It is an umbrella term. X in XR is variable and can be changed with any letter. 

About Mixed Reality (MR), well it is popular but it also creates confusion as it’s seen as a synonym for augmented reality. For decades, AR was used foremost in academia and industry, but in the year 2016 when Microsft launched HoloLens- for the first time used Mixed Reality in its marketing and thus the term MR got popularized. People try to differentiate both the terms MR and AR but it’s just a matter of preference. 

It gets more confusing as recently several companies have started describing “Smartglasses” as a product of augmented reality or mixed reality when in actuality it’s just a “Heads-up-display” where flat data and images are presented into the user’s line of sight. 

But then, there is a distinction in user experience and some developmental complexities that don’t allow these terms (AR and MR) to get interchanged. 

Occipital a startup in the field of computer vision has launched its product Bridge, which is a mixed-reality headset- it gives a user the power to map any given room and set the objects within it. In their marketing video, we can see a robot named Bridget fetching a ball and navigating around physical objects in the room.

This showed that MR has something that AR lacks.

Am I making it confusing? It is indeed a bit confusing. However, there is some feature that differentiates MR from AR.

Let’s state it this way,

Augmented reality and Mixed Reality are not interchangeable terms. The prime difference here is- MR is AR but not all AR is MR. 

Augmented Reality is Composite and Mixed Reality is interactive. 

Use of AR, VR, and MR

AR vs VR vs MR vs XR

The video gaming industry benefits a lot from Virtual Reality. Below are examples of where VR is being used in businesses-

  • Training and Education
  • Marketing
  • Engineering and design

AR in business-

Some of the main uses of AR are in-

  • Interior Designing
  • Virtual designing rooms
  • In Tourism
  • Advertisement and marketing
  • Data visualization

Use of MR-

  • In corporate world
  • MR in business training
  • In designing
  • In learning

Technologies used in AR, VR, and MR

The AR and VR industry is booming. Companies like Jelvix are developing AR and VR applications for smartphones and tablets.

The technologies used in AR and VR applications are:

  • GPS (for locating the real position)
  • Inertial compass (for determining the direction)
  • Tracking of hyperlinks, videos, photos, and texts in the database.
  • Screen information composition in overlays. 

In the case of MR, headset-based technology requires components like cameras to generate an environment that merges the AR and VR worlds. 

This Doesn’t Mean that the real in reality is lost.

The more virtual reality gets closer to the actual world, it seems like real reality is becoming very boring and unnecessary because of the engaging experiences that AR, VR, and MR provide.  

All this AR, VR, MR, and XR contribute to making Real Reality (RR) better and giving people joy in their daily lives.

However, there is still concern about the deterioration of real reality. Like the case with social media, where people connects the most to their online community making a social reality that is drastically different from the actual world. Although social media gives people real-life opportunities like finding new jobs, it also helps them make real-life connections.

Virtual reality and augmented reality are bound to follow the same path. Although there are definitely concerns about digital reality surpassing actual experiences. But we will find a way to seamlessly combine all types of environments. 

Summing Up

It is quite evident that VR, AR, MR, and XR technologies are pretty complex but still different from each other. 

These technologies allow brands and marketers to attract the attention of users. In the virtual world, users can experience some strong emotions. 

You can give these emotions to your audience, making your brand more recognizable. 

Trying to implement these technologies in your business? You have to pay attention to the software. If you want to get high-quality apps and videos for your business, contact us, and meet our experienced team of developers. 

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