Extended Reality: Mixed Reality Versus Augmented Reality

As more companies continue to explore the potential benefits of Extended or Expanded Reality for productivity, creativity, and collaboration, many are questioning what each technology can do. It’s difficult to invest in the right disruptive technology if you don’t know how augmented reality (AR) differs from mixed reality (MR). The reality, however, is that mixed reality and augmented reality are two very different concepts.

Augmented Reality Defined

Augmented Reality is quickly making its way into a variety of settings. Retailers use it to help customers visualize a product before they buy it. Engineers turn to augmented reality as a way of accessing valuable information about a product without fumbling with physical manuals. With AR, users can embed or overlay elements of the digital world into the physical world.

Tools like ARkit from Apple and Google ARCore even allow users to build their own smartphone immersive experiences. However, it is possible to further enhance AR experiences through things like smart glasses. These overlay the digital content you need to see in the real world in a much more immersive way, without requiring you to hold a phone in front of your face.

Mixed Reality Defined

Mixed Reality is a hybrid of AR and VR (virtual reality), though it goes further than AR when it comes to immersion. Through MR virtual or digital content isn’t just overlaid into the real world; it’s embedded in a way that users can interact with it.

This form of MR is an advanced kind of AR, which makes the digital elements you bring into your environment feel more authentic and realistic. MR can have elements of both virtual and augmented reality within it. However, the major difference is that the focus is on blending everything together. You’re not entirely replacing an environment, or simply augmenting it with new content. Instead, you’re creating an entirely new reality by combining both the physical and digital environment.

Exploring AR and MR

There are numerous differences between AR and MR, but the biggest noticeable aspects are:

  • Device requirements - AR is usable on most smartphones or tablets, with the added option of specialist headsets. However, to provide a MR experience, more power and sensors are required.

  • Realistic interaction - AR offers limited interactivity with the virtualized elements. The computer-generated content can’t interact with the real-world elements users see.

It’s up to you whether to use VR, AR for your project. Each of them is made for particular tasks. For many companies, augmented reality will be one of the easiest ways to enter the world of extended reality. The environment is accessible because you can create applications and tools that work in smartphones, as well as through smart glasses and headsets. However, as the technology available to us continues to evolve, Mixed Reality may also become more accessible.

Many leading companies are experimenting with MR already, though it’s still technically the youngest technology in the XR space. In manufacturing, an important hurdle to overcome when trying to bring together several emerging technologies in one place is data connectivity. At the Manufacturing Technology Center (MTC) in the UK, they understand this issue all too well and are working to combat it using ATS Bus. ATS Bus is a platform for their VIVAR (Virtual Instruction, Inspection and Verification using Augmented and/or Virtual Reality) project which investigates “how augmented and virtual reality could be used to enhance the operator experience when viewing work instructions and increase efficiency and accuracy for both instruction delivery and data capture.” The work orders received are translated by ATS Bus into a standard data format where they are then sent down to the shop floor where ATS Bus translates them again into the required format for use on the Adv (Advanced Display Device) server.

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In most cases, it is easier to work with MR than AR because MR frees you from physical boundaries and allows you to build whole new spaces instead of attaching them to the physical space. In the future, the promise of mixed reality could lead to a brand-new environment for collaboration, productivity, and interaction. While both VR and AR can significantly change the way we live and work, MR could potentially be the most immersive new technology of all.

If you want to learn more about VR, AR, and MR as well as find out what devices you need to experience these technologies, we’re here to help!

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