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  • Writer's pictureAnton Juan

What are the Differences Between AR, VR, and MR?

Updated: Jan 18

I found myself puzzled by the subtle differences between VR, AR, and MR. Especially puzzling was differentiating between AR and MR. Take, for example, the Vision Pro and the HoloLens 2 — both are labeled as Mixed Reality headsets, yet they differ significantly in function and design. This made me question: what exactly does "mixed reality" mean? Realizing that this confusion isn’t unique to me, I decided to delve deeper. This article is the result of that exploration, aiming to demystify these terms. By diving into their definitions, form styles, and underlying technologies, we can gain clarity on how each one is unique and how they all fit into the larger picture of immersive technology.




What are Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR)?


The Wikipedia view


Virtual reality (VR) is the name for computer technology that makes a person feel like they are somewhere else. It uses software to produce images, sounds, and other sensations to create a different place so that a user feels like he or she is really part of this other place.


Augmented reality (AR) is a type of virtual reality technology that blends what the user sees in their real surroundings with digital content generated by computer software. The additional software-generated images with the virtual scene typically enhance how the real surroundings look in some way.

Our Take Away

Augmented Reality (AR) adds digital information to your real-world environment. Unlike Virtual Reality (VR), which creates a completely artificial setting, AR overlays digital content onto the real world around you. It’s used to enhance your natural surroundings with extra visual details or information. The main benefit of AR is its ability to combine digital elements with your view of the real world, making it more interactive and informative.


Mixed reality (MR)—sometimes referred to as hybrid reality—is the merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.

Our Take Away

Mixed Reality (MR) blends the physical and virtual worlds, allowing real and digital elements to interact in real time. More immersive than Augmented Reality, MR integrates 3D digital content into the real environment, offering interactive experiences through devices like HoloLens 2. It combines environmental understanding, human interaction tracking, spatial sound, and 3D holograms, creating a seamless blend of reality and virtuality.


Take Away Key points: 

  • Augmented reality (AR): AR adds digital content, like images or information, to your real-world view.

  • Mixed Reality (MR): MR shows the real world with digital elements added in, where both can interact with each other.

  • Virtual reality (VR): VR creates a completely digital environment that you can experience as if it were real.


Device Categories and Examples


VR Device Categories

  • PC integrated VR headsets (wired)

Varjo Aero, Pimax Vision 8K, HTC Vive Pro 2 

  • Standalone VR headsets

Meta Quest 3, PICO 4, Quantum VR Headset (Metavision) 

  • Videos Form of VR (360-degree videos)

Youtube VR


AR Device Categories


  • Smartphone and Tablet AR

1) ARKit-enabled apps on iOS (like IKEA Place)

2) ARCore-enabled apps on Android (like Google Maps' Live View). 

  • Head-Mounted AR Displays

VUZIX M400, Magic Leap One

  • Smart Glasses

Xreal, Rokid


MR Device Categories


  • MR Headsets/Glasses – Video pass-through technology (more immersive and realistic blending of the virtual and real worlds)

XR-4, Vision Pro

  • MR Headsets/Glasses – Optical see-through technology

Hololens 2 AR/MR headset, ThirdEye X2




What technologies are used for virtual reality?

Virtual reality technology utilizes components originally developed for smartphones. This includes gyroscopes and motion sensors to track the movement of the head, body, and hands, ensuring an immersive experience. VR headsets use compact high-definition screens to create a stereoscopic effect, giving a sense of depth. The heart of these devices is their fast, lightweight processors that handle complex graphics and interactions, enabling a smooth and responsive VR experience.

What technologies are used for augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) relies on cameras and sensors to understand and track the user's environment. It then uses computer vision algorithms to overlay digital content onto this real-world setting in real-time.


What is the technology behind mixed reality?

Mixed Reality technology combines spatial computing for accurate real-world mapping, 6DoF to track movement in any direction, advanced graphics for realistic visuals, immersive display technologies, intuitive interaction methods, and cloud computing for powerful processing.


Let’s move a further step: What technologies make MR different from AR?

The key technological differences between Mixed Reality (MR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are centered on depth perception, environmental interaction, and the level of immersion.


  1. Depth Perception and Spatial Awareness: MR utilizes advanced depth sensing and spatial recognition technologies, allowing it to accurately map and understand the physical environment. This enables MR devices to place and anchor digital objects in the real world, facilitating interactions between real and virtual elements.

  2. Environmental Interaction: MR technology offers a more interactive experience, where users can engage with virtual objects in a realistic manner, such as moving or manipulating them in relation to the physical environment (6DoF). AR, while it can overlay digital images onto the real world, typically does not allow for such sophisticated interactions with these augmentations.

  3. Level of Immersion: MR provides a more immersive experience by creating a convincing blend of the real and virtual worlds, allowing virtual objects to appear as part of the user's physical space. AR, in contrast, generally offers a less immersive experience with digital content superimposed over the real world but not fully integrated into it.

In essence, MR's advanced spatial understanding and interactive capabilities, supported by sophisticated hardware, set it apart from AR's more basic overlay of digital content onto the physical world.


Metavision’s VR AR and MR product models


VR Products


AR Products


MR Products

Equipped with advanced SLAM spatial positioning and AI recognition, the M53 excels in blending the physical and digital worlds seamlessly. With gesture and ray control for intuitive interactions, and environmental adaptability for optimal viewing, the M53 stands out in delivering a true six degrees of freedom (6DoF) experience, tailored for both developers and users in diverse MR applications.

Based on its hardware configuration, framework design, and SLAM algorithms, the M53 has significant potential for supporting Mixed Reality (MR) application development.





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