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Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality vs. Mixed Reality

This article delves into the differences and similarities between VR, AR and MR, allowing for a better understanding of their applications and potential use cases.

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Comparing Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) are three prominent immersive technologies that have garnered significant attention. Each of these technologies blends the digital and physical worlds in distinct ways. This article delves into the differences and similarities between VR, AR and MR, allowing for a better understanding of their applications and potential use cases.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR) is a fully immersive digital experience that transports users to a simulated environment, completely replacing the real world. Users wear a VR headset that covers their field of view entirely and often wear accompanying accessories like gloves or handheld controllers to interact with the virtual world. The immersive nature of VR is achieved by tracking the user's movements and adjusting the display accordingly, creating a sense of presence in a computer-generated environment.

Key Characteristics of Virtual Reality

  • Immersive Environment: VR provides a fully immersive and interactive digital environment that isolates users from the physical world.
  • Complete Simulation: Users experience an entirely artificial environment, which can be interactive, three-dimensional, and computer-generated.
  • Isolation from the Real World: VR headsets occlude the real world, allowing users to be fully engrossed in the virtual environment.
  • Applications: Gaming, education, simulations, virtual tours, therapy and training are popular applications of virtual reality.

(Make into product selector) Example Products: Meta Quest 2, Lenovo Mirage S3, HTC VIVE Pro 2

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality (AR) overlays digital content onto the real-world environment, enhancing the user's perception of reality. AR is typically experienced through devices like smartphones, tablets, AR glasses, or specialized headsets. AR applications use the device's camera and sensors to detect the physical surroundings and integrate digital information, such as images, videos, or 3D models, into the user's view.

Key Characteristics of Augmented Reality

  • Overlay of Digital Content: AR enhances the real world by overlaying digital information, often in real-time, onto the user's physical surroundings.
  • Integration of Real and Virtual: Users can interact with both the real world and digital elements simultaneously, creating an integrated experience.
  • Maintained Awareness of the Real World: Unlike VR, AR does not block the user's view of the physical environment.
  • Applications: Education, gaming, navigation, retail, advertising, remote assistance and healthcare are some of the areas where AR finds applications.

Example Products: Epson Moverio BT-40S Smart Glasses, Vuzix Longevity Series M400 Smart Glasses, Lenovo ThinkReality A3 Smart Glasses

What is Mixed Reality?

Mixed reality (MR) represents a spectrum that combines elements of both VR and AR. MR integrates digital content into the real world while allowing users to interact with and manipulate both the real and virtual environments. The key aspect of MR is that digital content is anchored to and interacts with the physical world in real-time, providing a more seamless blending of the two realities.

Key Characteristics of Mixed Reality

  • Seamless Blend of Real and Virtual: MR creates a seamless integration of digital content into the real world, maintaining spatial awareness and interaction with physical objects.
  • Interactive and Anchored Objects: Digital objects can interact with and be anchored to real-world objects, responding to the user's actions and movements.
  • Spatial Mapping and Understanding: MR systems understand the physical space, enabling accurate placement and interaction of virtual objects in the real world.
  • Applications: MR has applications in gaming, education, design, architecture, remote collaboration, and training, among others.


Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality represent a spectrum of immersive technologies, each offering unique experiences and applications. CDW offers AR, MR and VR solutions for a variety of industries, from education to entertainment. Interested in learning more? Explore our AR/MR/VR solutions now.