As the metaverse continues to take shape, a lot of folks are soon to be presented with a handful of abbreviations that they may not understand. There are a number of different concepts that combine to form digital reality, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).
Each has its own characteristics and meanings relative to emerging technologies, ranging from hardware such as VR headsets and AR glasses, to software such as Meta’s World Horizons platform or Innersloth’s newly-released VR edition of ‘Among Us.’
Accordingly, each concept is explained below in a simple, straightforward way, so that you may better conceptualize the various realms that, when combined, form the overall structure of the metaverse.
What Is Virtual Reality (VR)?
Virtual reality (VR) represents a fully-immersive digital environment. In virtual reality, one disconnects from their real-world environment in order to fully immerse themselves within a digital environment. This is achieved by wearing a virtual reality headset, such as the Meta Quest 2 or Pico 4. The movie ‘Ready Player One,’ for example, features a virtual reality world called Oasis.
Virtual reality is most closely associated with gaming and social worlds. Massively multiplayer online games (MMOG) and social platforms such as ‘Horizon Worlds,’ ‘Second Life,’ ‘Zenith,’ and ‘VRChat’ represent popular virtual reality titles, with plenty more in the developer pipeline.
When people try to conceptualize the metaverse, they often assume that it exists purely as a VR experience. However, this is far from accurate. The metaverse exists as a combination of VR, AR, and MR, distinct concepts which are explained further below.
What Is Augmented Reality (AR)?
Augmented reality (AR) represents digital elements projected atop the real world environment. Think of the Princes Leia hologram from ‘Star Wars,’ or the heads-up displays that fighter pilots use in their cockpits, or the game ‘Pokémon Go’ that was all the rage in 2016. In the AR experience, you can visualize a composite view of the physical environment and digital elements. However, there is no interaction between the real world and those digital projections.
Some augmented reality (AR) is displayed on dedicated interfaces. Remember Google Glass? Well, if anything, it was probably just ahead of its time. However, a more common and seemingly useful application of augmented reality is achieved via our phones. For example, applications will revolutionize shopping by superimposing a variety of clothes onto our bodies when standing in front of a mirror before we purchase new outfits online, or superimpose furniture into our homes before we purchase a new couch or table or chair.
What Is Mixed Reality
Mixed reality (MR) is next-level augmented reality. It involves not only the superimposition of digital elements onto the real world, but interaction between the two. It is this blending of VR and AR that creates the concept of MR. So for the math whiz’s out there, just keep this equation in mind: VR + AR = MR!
What Is Extended Reality (XR)?
Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term that includes all forms of technology that alters reality by adding digital elements. In other words, extended reality (XR) is comprised of VR, AR, and MR, in addition to any other technology that exists along the virtual continuum.
What’s more, extended reality (XR) represents the true nature of the metaverse: advanced technology and computing that allows users to go from inhabiting the current two dimensional internet landscape to transforming it into an even more immersive, three dimensional landscape.
Therefore, in order for something to be considered part of the new reality that is the metaverse, it simply must incorporate two basic elements: a digital component and a 3D component.
Virtual reality (VR): a fully-immersive digital environment.
Augmented reality (AR): a view of the real world with an overlay of digital elements.
Mixed Reality (MR): a view of the real world with an overlay of digital elements where physical and digital elements can interact.
Extended reality (XR): an umbrella term that covers all these different technologies, including VR, AR, and MR.