AR and VR is a Spectrum, Not a Competition

The way we’re thinking about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is all wrong.

First, there is Apple’s ARkit vs. Google’s ARCore. People claim AR will overtake VR, sending VR to the death pits. Then, there is the weird kid in the corner, Microsoft’s mixed reality (MR), that no one is quite sure to make of.

How are we supposed to build an industry with all this crazy in-fighting?

Turns out, the way we’ve been thinking about AR/VR is all wrong. I used to explain that eventually AR and VR would converge to form mixed reality (MR). We knew that MR was the end goal but we weren’t really sure what that looked like.

Turns out, we’ve known for a long time. AR and VR are on a spectrum called the Reality- Virtuality Continuum. This was a concept introduced by Paul Milgram, Haruo Takemura, Akira Utsumi, and Fumio Kishino in the early 1990s.

Here is a picture explaining the spectrum.

VR Contiuum

Here is how Microsoft explains the spectrum today, 23 years later.

Microsoft ARVR Spectrum
Mixed Reality Spectrum

I happened to attend a talk from Microsoft at OrlandoiX 2017. He explained what mixed reality means to Microsoft and how they plan on building upon it with the the Hololens. This is best explained in the video below.


As you can see, AR isn’t at war with VR. And MR isn’t some weird kid in the corner. Each of these are valid immersive technologies. By accepting that, we open the market to much more kinds of products and services. That’s what it should be about.


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