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Some tech jargon explained: AR, MR, VR, and XR

Techies use abbreviations almost as frequently as they do to hint at their affluence. Some of which are AR, MR, VR, and XR. But what do they mean? Are these merely fictitious terms akin to COB, deliverables, and huddle?

The latter may be, but not the abbreviations. The names are applied to actual virtual settings or interactions created by technology. They have augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), virtual reality (VR), and extended reality (XR). Also, you’ve applied one of these ideas more frequently than you realise.

In this article, we’ll deconstruct these four technical concepts and provide concrete, relevant examples so that you, too, will have something other than cash to spend.

1. Augmented reality (AR)

In general, you should consider augmented reality as digital makeup. What is digital makeup used for, you ask? Yeah, digital makeup for everyone and everything, including people and actual situations.

AR uses digital visual, acoustic, and sensory components to improve how something appears in the actual world and enable in-person engagement. AR uses your camera and audio to bring things to life and make you see things that aren’t there. It does this by applying filters and artificial intelligence. The video game Pokemon Go is the most well-known example of AR since it allows users to utilise GPS to look for Pokemon in various real-world locales. Another illustration is the 3D feature of Google Search, which lets you view what animals would be like if they were actually in your home. 

The filters on Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are even better examples. Well, augmented reality encompasses all those filters that show you what you might sound like with a beard, change the pitch of your voice, and transform you into a Disney princess.

Moreover, augmented reality (AR) has uses in the e-commerce and health-tech industries that facilitate shopping for all parties. In e-commerce, retailers can use filters to show you how shoes, hats, shirts, and even spectacles might look on you. Nike employs augmented reality to show you how you might look in the shoes you are considering purchasing and confirm your shoe size. You may see how the furniture you’re looking at would look in your living spaces in retailers like Ikea and Home Depot. 

A few startups are developing AR-based solutions in Africa. A Nigerian company called GESAL uses edtech to help students see what they are learning by displaying 3D images of the schematics in their textbooks. Another option is Augmented Startups, a South African software development company that instructs users on using and applying augmented reality.

2. Virtual Reality (VR)

Computers are used to generate interactive, three-dimensional (3D) environments in virtual reality (VR). VR doesn’t rely on the physical environment to generate interactive places, in contrast to AR. Instead, it completely submerges you in worlds digitally produced and modified in every way—from touch to sound to sight.

VRs are programmable worlds that users may alter. A computer-generated lion that roars and purrs can be seen in a virtual forest in VR instead of AR, showing you what a lion looks like in your living room. In virtual reality environments, you can animate individuals in various ways or turn the sky purple.

Using a headset allows players to enter virtual reality environments where they can take on the roles of everything from ogres to construction pieces. For instance, Meta, the corporation that owns Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, developed Horizons, a virtual reality environment where anybody can build social activities like puzzles and parties.

In hospitality, tourism, and the arts, VR experiences are abundant throughout the continent. Annual Lagos, Nigerian art festival Art X’s 2021 edition included virtual reality (VR) activities that displayed artwork and photographs.

Another option is DOBIISON, a Ghanaian business that offers VR experiences for various industries, including real estate and tourism. The firm provides customers free tours of well-known tourist destinations in Ghana, such as the Cape Coast Castle, which served as a holding facility for enslaved people during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. 

The latter frequently require specialised hardware or software, such as VR goggles or controller pads, another difference between AR and VR. AR, on the other hand, doesn’t need any particular tools.

3. Mixed Reality (MR) 

As the name suggests, mixed reality (MR) includes activities that combine augmented and virtual realities.

The extremes are VR and AR. AR is not physically independent, whereas VR is. MR blends the two ideas. Digital and physical items coexist in mixed reality experiences, which combine the real and virtual worlds. It certainly sounds a lot like AR. It does, indeed. Because they combine the real and the digital, many people think of MR as just another moniker for AR.

As they augment reality and allow you to see digital objects in the real world, the social media filters mentioned above are excellent instances of mixed realities.  

4. Extended reality (XR)

Perhaps you haven’t taken life too seriously if your first thought concerning extended reality (XR) isn’t “Why isn’t the acronym ER?”

Mark Zuckerberg wishes to escape to real reality as part of his metaverse adventures, and ER XR is the pool from which we define AR, MR, VR, and RR (real reality).

Extended reality is the fusion of all physical and digital worlds, whether humans, the environment, or computers create them. Because they provide solutions beyond the current reality and into other realities, businesses that provide AR, VR, and MR solutions are frequently referred to as Extended Reality companies.

Imisi 3D, a creative lab in Nigeria that is building an African AR/VR creator community, developing AR/VR solutions, and offering AR/VR educational and engagement experiences, is a fantastic example of such a business. One of its initiatives uses VR eyewear to teach math to students in Nigeria.