Now, as far as acronyms go, VR/AR/MR isn’t exactly the most complex. VR stands for Virtual Reality, AR stands for Augmented Reality, and MR stands for Mixed Reality. XR stands for… all of them? The concepts behind these acronyms are very nuanced and specific, especially as a growing and evolving community.
Virtual Reality (VR): This is often wearable tech that completely eliminates you view of the outside world, teleporting you into another 3D environment. VR hardware is a head-mounted (360 degree) display, sometimes with hand controllers.
Augmented Reality (AR): This often comes through mobile app technology, which takes a visual image of the surrounding environment and overlays a 3D object onto it. AR hardware is normally just a mobile phone or tablet with camera accessibility.
Mixed Reality (MR): Very similar to Augmented Reality, however this is more often a wearable tech that overlays 3D objects onto a mapped physical environment. Also dubbed by those in the community as “Microsoft Reality” – MR is currently only coined by Microsoft development with the Hololens.
Cross Reality/x – Reality/eXtended Reality (XR): This is often the most confusing term, as there is some contention as to what the “X” stands for. Some believe that it is describes Extended Reality, others believe it describes variable “x” reality, and there’s even a small following that believe it stands for the term Cross Reality. Regardless of the actual definition given, it is used to describe all immersive tech (Virtual, Augmented, Mixed) – all encompassing for spatial computing.
The success of these technologies? Some like to say they’re novelty items. Some say they’re revolutionary. With any new innovative technology, I always like to quote Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”