What’s the Difference Between Augmented, Virtual, and Mixed Reality?

The gaming and technology world is an exciting place to be right now. Advancements in medical technology are late-breaking almost daily, entertainment technology is better than ever, and it’s all becoming more and more accessible to the everyday user. If you’re even somewhat exposed to the tech world, you’ve likely heard of these three technologies: augmented, virtual, and mixed realities. And if you’re a smartphone user (like 36% of the world), you might have even interacted with one of these technologies.

While their purposes are all alike (to alter reality), these three experiential technologies differ in functionality, features, and equipment. In this post, we’re exploring the differences between augmented, virtual, and mixed reality, and giving examples of each to help you get a better understanding of how each works and how you might be able to use them yourself!

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented reality simply adjusts the world around you by adding interactive digital elements like visual overlays, sensory features, and superimposed characters. These features can respond to the user’s commands and even movements to change how they see the world around them.


  • Pokemon Go: Pokemon Go is one of the most well-known and effective examples of augmented reality. In fact, over 130 million people downloaded the free app when it first debuted in 2016. Since the, the game has retained players and regularly hosts Pokemon Go community days where gamers can join forces to “catch ‘em all.” Using the camera lens and GPS, the Pokemon Go app captures the environment surrounding the player and incorporates Pokemon features and characters that make up the gaming interface.
  • Snapchat Filters: Snapchat filters are a very different example of AR (since you’re not necessarily playing), but it works the same. The camera registers the environment and features around you and adds elements that change the way you look, or the way the image appears as a whole. Features range from cat ears to falling snowflakes, and everything in between.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality takes augmented realities to the next level by immersing the user in a completely virtual experience. This means the user will be interacting with an environment that has a totally different from the physical world around them, both visually and audibly. The user can choose their adventure within this virtual world by moving about and interacting with different elements.


  • Medical Training: Virtual reality has taken on many different uses in marketing, entertainment, and even medical technology. Just take a look at how VIVEPORT is using VR in medical training. Using a 360° video simulation, students and trainees are able to practice and learn surgical techniques and proper responses to related emergencies. This experience gives students the power to perfect their skills before working with actual patients.
  • Entertainment: From film, to online gaming, to interactive art spaces, virtual technologies are opening the door for more captivating entertainment experiences across all mediums. Even Google is partnering with VIVE and Oculus to facilitate VR travel experiences on Google Earth.

Mixed Reality (MR)

Mixed reality combines the physical world with the digital to create a unique experience for the user. It sounds similar to augmented reality, but mixed reality can be considered more of a spectrum between physical and augmented reality, blending elements from both.


  • Microsoft HoloLens: The Microsoft HoloLens is the most recognizable piece of MR technology. It’s essentially a mixed reality headset that uses optical displays and motion tracking to combine the physical and virtual world for the wearer. This technology can be used in a variety of mediums including gaming, travel, and even home decorating! Yep, you can test out designs and watch them coalesce right before your eyes.
  • Taste Buddy: Another application of mixed reality could take your cooking skills up a notch. That’s right, this mixed reality project is altering the way food tastes by changing the surrounding environment around the diner. Taste Buddy is still in the testing phase, but a recent Cornell University study has shown some success with this tech.

In conclusion

AR, VR, and MR are all around us—and don’t expect them to be scaling back anytime soon. Use this guide to help you learn more about new projects and products you may see changing the world.

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1 Comment

  1. That’s not the way I understand it. As I’ve seen Microsoft explain once (I can’t find the video anymore. It was really good, though), Mixed reality is a catch-all name for both virtual and augmented reality. With Windows 10, Microsoft started to support both virtual and augmented reality by making the ‘Cliff House interface’ for VR users and the Hololens as an AR device.
    Microsoft expects devices in the future that can immerse users in a virtual environment as well as let them see the real world through transparent screens. These devices wouldn’t be for just Virtual reality or Augmented reality, they’d be for Mixed reality.

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