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VR is a complete immersive experience from wearing a computer controlled headset or visualization device. You can be transported to any world imaginable with Virtual Reality! You actually believe you are there if it's done right.
Three Degrees of Freedom is a term that refers to the movement of your head axis within the Virtual World. This is the basic limited experience for 360 degree videos and environments such as you can experience with "Google Cardboard" or "Daydream" devices. This can be experienced by downloading 360 videos from YouTube for example. These devices hold your smart phone in front of your eyes and the the lenses provide you with a 3D view of the 360 video. You may need to change the play mode of the video to accomplish this. See the icon at the bottom of the video for playback options. Right now, Samsung GearVR offers the highest quality 3 degrees of freedom experience in a headset. You can also view 360 videos in 2D without the use of the 3D headset by just holding your smart phone and moving around you in any direction while streaming a 360 video. It expands the viewing experience allowing you to look anywhere you want.
A far more advanced form of VR is called "Six degrees of Freedom" This technology gives you the ability to actually move your body around inside the digital environment. This is also called "Room Scale" You need a sophisticated VR System such as the HTC VIVE or Oculus Rift to experience this. It uses 3D Trackers to know your position in 3D space inside your room. It is by far the greatest and most believeable form of Virtual Reality.
The addtion of VR hand controllers enables you to move your hands, hold a tool or weapon, and pick up objects within the VR game or experience. Some developers use "haptic feedback" for the hand controllers allowing you to have a sensation of touching 3D objects in the VR world, usually with slight vibrations in the controller. Additionally some games or experiences use positionable audio so you appear to hear the direction of sounds around you using earbuds or headphones attached to the device. Six degrees of Freedom together with hand trackers and positionable audio is the current state of the art for VR. Artificial Intellegence can be incorporated as well so characters and objects can be independant from hard coded scripts. Future advances with smaller headsets, higher resolution imagrey, haptic feedback vests & suits will continue to enhance the VR experience.
AR is similar to VR but you are not cut off from the real world around you. You can see your real world but it is augmented with digital overlays such as text or animation. AR can be experienced both with Smart Glasses, or by using an AR Mobile Smart Phone as the viewer such as Google Tango. IKEA & Home Depot are major corporations that are working on AR environments to enhance the shopping experience.Simply by pointing your AR enbabled mobile phone at a product can display text, pricing, videos, reviews etc. Also searching for a product could enable an AR GPS arrow to appear on the floor directing you to the aisle and shelf in the store. AR mobile apps are the quickest to implement and will soon be part of our everyday lives. Apple and Android Smartphones will be exploding with AR features in the coming months.
MR is a combination of AR & VR and can include "Room Scanning" technology that allows the device to know where your desk, walls, etc. are located in 3D space. Once this scan is established, digital 3D objects can interact with the real environment when viewed through the device. For example a monster could run around your couch and hide from you, or your company logo could fly around the room and land on your desk and then open up a virtual TV screen on a wall and begin playing a video for your client. Object recognition & tracking can be incorporated as well. Head mounted displays such as Microsoft's Hololens and other high end devices will support Mixed Reality. The new Star Wars Land at Disneyland will be an amazing display of this technology.
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