Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality – Present, Future, and Differences

Contribution Article

Author: Javier Sánchez – Multimedia Engineer at AnswareTech, S.L. –

Nowadays we are living in an era of digital transformation in which many efforts from different sources are slowly changing the way we communicate with machines.

A lot of time has passed since those old green monitors to control our computers were replaced with new colorful LCD screens in our powerful smartphones, and the engineering world doesn’t stop and keeps researching new devices to make  the human-machine interaction more natural and comfortable.

The new focus of the market is the integration of the technology in the human body, first with smartphones and now many different kind of wearables like smartwatches, smartglasses, smart helmets or smart bands. And are the smart visual devices where the industry is focusing now with devices like Oculus Rift, Microsoft Hololens or HTC Vive.  The market is ready and the public is excited about all these new technologies but, do we really know the difference between these devices? Well, in this article we aim to explain the difference between the technologies in which are based these devices: Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality.

Augmented Reality

The augmented reality is a technology that creates a visual experience based in use virtual elements with the real world. It simulates the existence of items over the reality to offer more information or possibilities to users.



Pokemon Go is the most popular example of this expanding our world through creatures and points of interests with virtual rewards related to real places.

Other popular applications of this technology are Nintedo 3DS ‘Face Raiders’ game  or Snapchat lens filters.

Some devices aimed to use this technology are: Epson Moverio, Meta, Vuzix

Virtual Reality

This technology generates a virtual reality environment where the users can enjoy a full artificial world as an immersive experience. Here the device isolates the user from the real world and shows him a new scene completely where the programmer can make everything possible.



A great example of this kind of technology is ‘The Matrix‘ film in which a virtual world that is indistinguishable from the reality is shown.

Examples of this technology are immersive simulators or new games and applications like  ‘EVE: Valkyrie’, ’Audioshield’ or ‘Tilt Brush’.

Some devices aimed to use this technology: Oculus RiftHTC Vive, PlayStation VR (for PS4)…

 Mixed Reality

We talk about mixed reality when we refer the technology that mixes reality and virtual reality. An example of this could be  a software that converts your room into a lava cavern and it uses furniture to simulate rocks. It also involves applications aimed to modify the reality with effects like virtual objects integration in the reality, objects color changing or deletion. You can interact with this objects rotating, moving or scaling them or just using gestures or natural controls.



Holograms are the most known example of this technology due to movies like Star Wars.

The major example of this technology at this moment are some applications like IKEA Virtual Furniture, Dulux Visualizer or the Windows Holographic.

Devices aimed to use this technology: Microsoft HoloLens.

It’s important to mention Google Cardboard because of it began the market of “virtual glasses” for smartphones and can be used to test applications of every kind of visual technologies as they can use the smartphone camera to work over the reality.

In the following years augmented and mixed reality devices will appear in our life as daily use technologies as happened with smartphones and computers, this will happen first as job accessories and will slowly be integrated to the population homes. Regarding virtual reality devices, they are appearing right now as consumer devices aimed to the entertainment industry so in the near future this approach will be improved to a higher level of user experience through new user-machine interactivity devices and sensors that will make other uses really interesting for different areas like health, national security or science researching. So all we can do is wait the time to do its job and do our best and create applications to bring these technologies to our day to day as soon as possible.