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Part 1 – Virtual Reality – Where Do I Start?

Aha Moment

So you are interested in VR? Maybe you saw a video on YouTube. Or tried out the Oculus Rift demo at a local electronics store and said “This is sooo much better than I thought it would be”. For me it was a small conference I recently attended in Atlanta. It was more about content than technical aspects but it opened my eyes to how far VR (as well as Augmented Reality) has come in the last few years.

VR / AR / MR / XR – I’m Confused!

It’s safe to assume we’ve all heard the term Virtual Reality. I mean, who doesn’t remember Lawmower Man, right? But what about this AR and others I hear about? As of today, here’s the _____ Reality landscape:

VR – Virtual Reality

An immersive experience where the environment and its physical aspects are simulated. Typically headsets (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, etc.) are used to remove you from the current environment in favor of a virtual world. But here’s where it gets a little fuzzy. VR can be a term used to describe most immersive experiences, including the those below, when the experience details are unclear or not known. For example, an article in a popular magazine may describe an experience as VR, even though it may really be AR.

AR – Augmented Reality

Can be described as a live view of a real, physical world where elements are overlayed via a screen but do not react with the environment to provide extra information or sensory data. So the reality is made better (augmented) by this extra information.

MR – Mixed Reality

This is typically used interchangeably with AR. There’s a debate on if they are different and how to define MR. The difference can be said to be in the interaction of added elements. If AR elements do not interact with the real world in real time, this is where MR steps in. MR describes a world where the physical and simulated objects interact in real time. The Hololens (Microsoft) is touted to provide a “Mixed” experience.

XR – Reality

Simply a blanket term to reference any of those above.


VR is not a new technology. In fact it’s been around much longer than you think. Ivan Sutherland developed a VR headset in the 1960s for military application. Graphics technology and hardware have improved significantly over the last decade, making XR development more accessible. So today we have communities surrounding XR, frameworks for development and content creation, and hardware that is marginally affordable and will undoubtedly get cheaper.

Next in this series we’ll dive deeper into development.