The number of reality terms floating around the tech world these days are unreal (get it?). Ok that was weak, but the new realities we have coming from companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple, HTC and others are anything but. However the terms are confusing so below is a primer on what each of the different virtual reality means today:
Augmented Reality is the most interesting for most people. The idea is that a computer overlays content on the real world. An example of this is a app on your cell phone that turns on the camera and overlays information about the things and places it is pointed at. A scene might include the date of construction for the building the camera is pointed at, along with local weather information and a small map showing the location of the nearest bathroom or McDonalds.
Virtual Reality is the one everyone is familiar with. It has been around since the 1970’s but has been just too expensive and needed too much computing power to be practical until the mid-2000’s. VR is most often presented in a helmet or wrap around glasses that allow you to immerse yourself in a fully computer generated world.
This is the new reality, or is it. This term was coined in 1994 by Paul Migram to mean a reality that shows both the real world plus completely synthetic computer generated people or things. Microsoft’s HoloLens is a computer headset that displays generated images on a transparent curved visor that lets you also see the real world around you. A surgeon can look at the visor at 3D MRI images as they cut into a part of a body so the blood and gore is less of an impediment. Personally, I think of Mixed Reality as just an enhancement of Augmented Reality.