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What is the difference between VR, MR and AR? [Interview]

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality applications are gaining ground in the construction industry. David Burczyk, Segment Manager Field Technology Group, explains the difference between the three technologies and their value to construction projects.

David Burczyk explains the difference between Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual Reality. 

Could you explain the difference between MR, AR, and VR?

“The terms mixed, augmented and virtual reality are used to describe different technologies around what’s now being referred to as extended reality or XR. Each technology visualizes digital content in a different way.”

Virtual reality

“Let’s start with virtual reality (VR). Virtual reality essentially means immersing yourself in the digital content. So, if you see people wearing the goggles that they put on their faces, you remove the context around you and you immerse yourself inside the technical or the digital world that you’ve created.”

Virtual reality is a fully immersive technology, secluding the user to visualize only digital content. 


Augmented reality

“Augmented reality is creating essentially a digital window. So, you take the mobile device like a tablet or a mobile phone and use it as this digital window that you look through. You see the digital content is overlaid on the physical surroundings that you’re standing in.”

Augmented reality technology combines the physical and virtual worlds together by overlaying digital information into the user’s environment, typically via a two-dimensional display.


Mixed reality

“Mixed reality (MR) then combines both virtual and augmented reality. Here you’re wearing a headset device again. In this case, however, you’re being immersed in the digital content, still aware of your physical surroundings so that you can interact with both physical and digital objects at the same time. All those different technologies can be applied to communicate and collaborate around the construction site.”

Mixed reality recognizes its surroundings and allows the digital content to interact with the real-world in three dimensions.


Which of these technologies will have the biggest impact on construction?


AR and MR help project teams understand the current digital content on the job site. VR enables teams in the office to see actual job site conditions overlaid with the digital model.

“All three will work really well in the construction industry. If you look at the job site specifically, both augmented and mixed reality applications will be very beneficial to construction projects. AR and MR can help project teams understand what the current digital content is and use this information to ensure that they are accurately installing things on the job site and also resolving any kind of conflict that arises.

 Virtual reality is really beneficial for design and construction teams that may not be able to visit a job site. If you look at virtual reality, you can take a 3D laser scan to document “as-is” conditions and bring this into the model. Virtual reality allows you to go back into that digital content, where you can then see actual job site conditions overlaid with the physical or digital model. This helps you to understand what’s happening for the project teams on the job site. This way you have a communication process for your team in place where those in the office can talk back to those in the field.”

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