Alternate realities are here. Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are no longer vague technology dreams of living beyond the physical world through your phone or headset. These technologies are pervasive in nature, and chances are you have already engaged with them. Pokemon GO; the geo-location augmented reality smartphone game was a four-month craze. Whether you played the game or not, you will have heard how gah gah the game drove millions of people. The ways in which this area of technology offers an alternative perspective on the world we live in was the focus of the LX.lab session on 3 November with Dr Greg Ferris. But what differentiates the new three R’s, AR, MR and VR?

AR – Augmented Reality

LX.lab AU MR VR Presentation
LX.lab AU MR VR Presentation

The three R’s of this space are all closely related in they provide a different view of the world around us. The differences between the technologies will help you better understand how you are (or are not yet) engaging with them. Augmented Reality technology utilises your smartphone camera, gyroscope, and GPS to display digital assets through an app. The most obvious example is Pokemon GO, although there are many more. Pokemon GO was (and still is) ridiculous, but it showed what was possible.

MR – Mixed Reality

Mixed Reality, on the other hand, goes a step further. It actually applies AR but adds more by having the digital assets actually interact with the physical environment. One of the best-known examples is Microsoft’s self-contained holographic computer, Hololens. This form of reality is in its infancy, and at present is not worth the investment from your personal wallet. Give it time though. The clip below better articulates how this technology works and how it is the next step up from AR.

VR – Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is the don of total immersive experiences. The participant’s visual and auditory senses are isolated from the physical world and locked into a digital environment. This is where headsets like the Oculus, HTC Vive, Samsung reality are worn. This is the type of technology people usually associate with the alternate realities. Although not an evangelist, Greg Ferris says that these technologies afford designers and developers an avenue to build empathy within their audiences by placing them in somebody else’s shoes. This was evident in the preview of Notes on Blindness and the VR compliment to the documentary. Whether this type of experience actually builds empathy is the big question.

It’s already here

The ultimate message I took out of the session: it’s all here. Your phone supports augmented reality. Windows 10 and the Fall Creators Edition includes basic VR and AR applications to develop artifacts or narratives for consumption. Apple is rumoured to be releasing support for VR – though a year too late, according to Greg Ferris. Facebook has been driving 3D video on your phone since 2015. It’s all here. Start assessing it.


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