The Increasing Presence of Augmented and Virtual Realities


For digital natives such as millennials and Gen Z, the terms augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and extended reality (XR) are commonplace. For the older generation, these terms need further definition.

AR is an experience where digital creation adds to the real world. The user still perceives the real world plus the augmentation. One example is the mobile phone game Pokemon Go. The user sees the real environment through the phone, with a Pokemon character added in. For AR, a mobile phone usually suffices.

VR is a purely immersive 3D digital experience. A headset feeds visual and audio inputs to the user. Handheld devices have sensors that capture the user’s motions and incorporate these into the experience. VR also requires a safe space for the user to move unencumbered, from 3×3 feet to 10×10 feet. This is necessary because the user is blind to the real world.

MR is a hybrid of AR and VR. The user still perceives the real world plus digital creations. However, this time, the digital creations actively engage with the user and objects in the real world.

More extended use of combined AR, VR, and MR is called XR. This can encompass huge environments with haptic clothing and artificial wind, among other sensory effects.

Uses in Entertainment

VR and AR are becoming popular in gaming. As mentioned, AR in Pokemon Go was a worldwide hit that even caused traffic jams in some places. Whenever the online grapevine leaked news of a character being “present” in a certain area, gamers rushed there to capture it.

VR gaming is still not as widespread because of the high cost of headsets. Still, as of February 2021, Facebook stated that more than 60 games for its Oculus Quest and Quest 2 headsets sold more than a million dollars since the beginning of 2020, with six games selling more than $10 million each, and The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners selling $29 million.

Uses in E-Commerce

For e-commerce, AR is more appropriate. This is because consumers most often use their mobile phones for online shopping, which is all that AR needs. E-commerce is still preferred by many consumers who are still wary of Covid-19.

In a study released by Ipsos in June, 62 percent of shoppers stated that they would not shop at retailers who do not take health and safety measures seriously. Upon checking 45 major U.S. retailers, the study found that more than half did not manage the number of customers in the store. More than three-fourths did not provide hand sanitizers by the entrance and at check-out, and a fourth had employees who had no facemasks or were wearing them improperly.  More than half also did not have staff cleaning high-touch areas like doors, carts, baskets, counters, and credit card readers.

As consumers continue to shop online, competition is becoming tougher than ever. It is easy for consumers to compare prices and goods between stores. AR can provide a retailer with an edge over competitors. For instance, Capchella can integrate AR into a retailer’s website so that the consumer can immediately see an item placed in her home environment in 3D and the correct proportion. This can also apply to wearable items. The consumer will not need to download any app to do this.


Uses in Medicine and Education

At the Yale New Haven Hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program, the use of a virtual reality support group for patients resulted in better attendance, more comfort for patients who feel uncomfortable speaking in a public session, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. The patients see each other as avatars in the virtual session, but body language and expressions are captured.

A 2021 study found that immersive VR helps patients in pain, such as burn victims, to reduce pain through distraction. For patients with emotional issues such as autism spectrum disorder, anxiety, depression, or phobias, immersive VR enables them to safely go through certain scenarios and manage their responses. VR is also crucial in medical training, especially in surgery and telesurgery.

This month, UK VR training platform Virti gathered $10 million in funds for its virtual surgery training. Testing proved that it increased training results up to 230 percent, making it a much more effective style than in-person and lecture-based education in boosting surgical accuracy. It is also an essential tool for professionals who are working remotely.

In July, Virti, a British VR training platform, gathered $10 million in its immersive surgery training solution. Testing proved that it increased training results up to 230 percent, making it a much more effective style than in-person and lecture-based education in boosting surgical accuracy. It is also an essential tool for professionals who are working remotely.

The Need for More Extended Reality

There are many more uses of AR, VR, and MR that cannot be covered in one article alone. Suffice it to say that there is a need for more developments in extended reality to cover various human needs. This is especially true when there is a need to distance people from danger, as in the case of a pandemic. This also holds training for other dangerous undertakings, such as training firefighters and other emergency rescue workers.

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