Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality

A simulated space walk in virtual reality (Source)


Virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality, VR, AR and MR, are a group of related technologies designed to reproduce or augment the real, physical world; to let you explore distant inhospitable environments from the comfort of our own home, or overlay contextually relevant information such as a technical manual right in your field of vision.

The progenitor of the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, Google Cardboard and all of the others is arguably 'The Sword of Damocles', the first computer powered head mounted display (HMD) that was capable of displaying stereoscopic graphics, that is, of sending a slightly different image to each eye to create a three dimensional image. Build in 1968, the HMD was so bulky and heavy that it had to be mounted from the ceiling with the user strapped into it, giving rise to its affectionate name.

Almost three decades later, in 1995, Nintendo released the first mass market consumer virtual reality system, the ill-fated Virtual Boy. A commercial failure, virtual reality faded back into a niche until 2012 when Oculus kick started the current boom with the announcement of the Rift, a new high resolution HMD powered by modern computers, significantly more powerful than anything that had been used to run VR before. Now all of the major tech giants are investing heavily in VR, AR and MR, and consumer products are available or imminent from Oculus, Google, Microsoft, Sony and others.

This page will give you an overview of the major current platforms, along with links to further information and suggestions on how they can be used in education.