I wanted to clear up (I hope) some confusion about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Most of you have probably heard both of these terms by now and may be wondering what they mean. Do they mean the same thing? The answer is no, not really, although sometime in the future the technologies are more than likely going to merge into a new reality called mixed reality (MR).
Virtual reality is currently a visual stereoscopic 3D image that you look at using a lens. If you have a smartphone you can use Google Cardboard to experience this on the cheap. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive make more high end products that use headsets that provide both audio and visual elements for a more realistic experience. While wearing a VR headset, if you move your head upwards you look up in your virtual world, same goes for looking down, left to right and behind you.
Augmented reality is a visual overlay onto a surface, like your smartphone again. If you’ve used Snapchat filters that put little bunny ears and whiskers on your face or played Pokémon Go then you’ve experienced a form of AR. Some online stores have apps that allow you use augmented reality to try their products before you buy it, Converse, LEGO and IKEA to name a few. Some of you may remember Google Glass, this was also a form of AR.
Since I’m on the subject, the next step is to merge VR and AR into MR, were both technologies meld into one. Microsoft is working on this already with Hololens.