The Mixing of Realities - Virtual Reality, Augmented & Mixed Reality -

"Any Sufficiently advanced technology is Indistinguishable from Magic" - Arthur C. Clarke


  • To explore the history of Reality based technology and the potential of the technology for use in media.
  • Identify the advantages and disadvantages of these technologies .

What is the Mixed Reality Scale and how can it be applied to media?

You may have heard the terms Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality being banded around however there is a lot more to these terms and technologies than you may be aware of.

In order to fully understand what these terms mean we must first understand where they sit within the Reality Virtuality Continuum (RV Scale) sometimes referred to as the Mixed Reality Scale. There are places for each of these technologies and they tend to be used for different levels of user engagement / experience.

We will go into more details about each of these technologies as we go through this document

Augmented Reality

The Reality over our reality its like looking through a Digital window and tracked using real world data.

Definition: “A technology that super imposes digital artefacts on users perspective typically via an intermediate device such as a screen”

Augmented Reality typically relies on a camera or 'digital window' to capture, detect and then track pre-set markers or objects over which digital content (3D objects, audio, images, videos and text) is overlaid. The more detailed the marker or object i.e. the more detection points set the more accurate the tracking as long as the lighting and environment do not interfere too much with the camera used.

Where is Augmented Reality used?

Augmented Reality has been used and is still regularly used in a number of fields including:

  • Marketing
  • Education
  • Tourism
  • Architecture
  • Military
  • Research
  • & many more

Advantages of Augmented Reality

AR like most mediums has its place in the world and advantages when used correctly and with some consideration. These advantages include:

  • Cost Effective - Compared to real world 3D building for example
  • Non-Destructive
  • Mass Deployable - Typically deployed via an app
  • 3D Visualisation
  • Rapid Prototyping - In some cases
  • Unlimited Constraints - i.e. Physical space and gravity rules not applicable.
  • Virtually Weightless
  • Mass Deployable
  • Value adding to traditional media - Works in synch with other media
  • Interactive

Disadvantages of Augmented Reality

AR like ANY technology has disadvantages and areas to consider for creation and use:

  • Information Overload
  • Environmentally Sensitive
  • Tracking results may vary
  • Non-Tangible
  • Potential License costs / Development costs
  • Perception of 'Novelty' based on wide use in marketing

Virtual Reality

Digitally created spaces that tracks head motion immersing user in a 360˚ degree 'world' or scene. VR is viewed via a HMD [Head Mounted Display]

Definition: “A Computer generated ‘World’ in which the user is engaged with typically via a HMD [Head Mounted Display]”

Virtual Reality sits at the polar opposite end to Augmented Reality and is designed to place the user into a digital 'world' and historically has close ties to AR as the two are branches from the same technological principle and designed with a User experience focus.

The History of Virtual Reality

The history of Virtual Reality dates back further than you may think and the principle idea of placing a person in another universe dates back decades if not longer.

In 1957 Morton Heilig built a device designed to provide a user a rich immersive experience limited by the technology available at the time but designed to essentially help 'trick' the brain into engaging with what they are shown / experience. This device was called the Sensorama and was one of the first consumer accessible devices.

1957 Sensorama (Patented 1962) - STILL works today

In the 1960's a lot of research was being conducted into HMD (Head Mounted Displays) and how users can interact / experience digital content one of these devices known as The Sword of Damocles helped pioneer the 'VR' revolution we are currently experiencing.

1968 Sword of Damocles

Virtual Reality is NOT a new thing BUT is a more refined thing with research still ongoing and current generation headsets still having issues but a great leap on from the 1990 counterparts not so long ago.

VR Arcade in early 1990's - Failed due to limitations of technology at time also price

Where is VR being used?

Virtual Reality much like Augmented Reality is being used heavily in certain areas such as:

  • Military
  • Research
  • Education
  • Marketing
  • Simulation
  • VR Arcades
  • Gaming
  • & More

Advantages of Virtual Reality

  • Users are encapsulated in experience i.e. fully immersed
  • Impossible worlds and experiences can be created
  • Used for training in otherwise dangerous environments
  • Virtual presence - Be there without being there

Disadvantages of Virtual Reality

  • Can be costly
  • Can be hardware demanding
  • User can miss things
  • Single user experience i.e. isolating as only person with HMD can fully experience VR scene
  • Not built for those with sight issues in mind
  • Can be difficult to setup
  • Limited availability of software and currently a lot of poorly optimised content for all devices on market

In order for technology to succeed it has to be accessible, useful and socially accepted which is where VR has struggled in the past. Although there are cheap VR units out there a poor experience can be as damaging as an overpriced one and a balance has to be achieved.

If you have any questions please email:

Created By
Stephen Fisher


Created with images by blickpixel - "board computer chip" • BryanAlexander - "Playing with AR" • pestoverde - "Razer OSVR Open-Source Virtual Reality for Gaming"

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