Virtual reality (VR)

This is where the industry is getting excited right now. Content-viewing hardware, a.k.a. head-mounted displays (HMDs), ranges from Google Cardboard right up to HTC Vive. Second only to excitement about headsets is the excitement about cameras. Nokia OZO launched in December, GoPro has its Odyssey—a collaboration with Google Jump, Ricoh has Theta; and there’s also Bublcam and Giroptic.

360° video

Some say that 360° video is not the same as “real VR” and the two terms are not interchangeable. Others think that 360° video, as an immersive experience, is one type of VR that sits happily alongside non-real-world content for VR, which we’ll get into now.

Computer-generated VR (CG VR)

CG VR is an immersive experience created entirely from computer-generated content. CG VR can be either pre-rendered and therefore not reactive—in this way it is very similar to 360° video—or rendered in real time using a games engine.

There is also a third type of VR, which is a hybrid between 360° video and CG, where an immersive experience is created using a blend of both content types. Much like in the film industry today there’s no real name for this ‘third way’ of creation, but audiences are used to the concept of visuals being created using a combination of both real-world and CG content. Some of the most exciting VR content being created today sits in this third category.

The AR/MR debate

The distinction between MR (mixed reality) and AR (augmented reality) hasn’t been clearly drawn yet; this means they are currently being used interchangeably, and whenever that happens, one term is inevitably favored over the other. Right now, AR is winning. However, there is a difference between the two so they will be addressed separately.

Augmented Reality (AR)

IKEA has developed a table as part of its concept kitchen that suggests recipes based on the ingredients on the table, which is a great example of AR working in the real world, potentially. Google Glass was a first attempt from Google to bring augmented reality to consumers and we expect to see more of this in the future.

Mixed reality (MR)

Hardware associated with mixed reality includes Microsoft’s HoloLens, which is set to be big in MR—although Microsoft have dodged the AR/MR debate by introducing yet another term: “holographic computing”. Of all the realities we’ve talked about in this article, mixed reality.