The difference between virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) can be confusing. Many people hear the letters and form their own assumptions of how they relate to each other. Some may even believe they are interchangeable terms: They’re not. AR, VR and MR have distinct differences that, when harnessed, can lead to more effective training.

Let’s take a look at the three technologies in more detail. By learning about the benefits and features of each, you’ll be able to determine the best immersive learning technology for your company.

What is VR?

When considering immersive learning technologies and tools, VR is a good place to begin. When you use VR, you isolate yourself from the physical world and enter a simulated one. The technology has been around since the 1950s, and while it was first adopted by the gaming community, we’re now seeing the myriad applications of VR in practice. VR is changing major industries, such as tourism, real estate, health care and others.


VR requires a headset along with hand controllers. The headset closes you off from the physical space. You can now walk and experience a world that is completely simulated or move around a real location recorded in 360-degree video. The controllers simulate hands in the virtual world.

In addition to a headset and hand controllers, there is additional equipment to further immerse you in the virtual space. Some equipment is universal while other pieces are specific to the application and are not always necessary.

Applications in Training

Training opportunities in VR are plentiful. Training programs put employees in situations that mimic their real environment make it easy for learners to practice skills safely, in a hands-on way. For instance:

  • In customer service training, you can replicate sales floor conditions, complete with agitated customers and crowds eager to take advantage of a sale.
  • Industries that are inherently dangerous, such as manufacturing, also use VR. Technicians working in manufacturing plants can practice high-risk procedures and processes in a simulated environment before executing them in the real one.
  • Soft skills training in VR has also proven successful. Round up a remote workforce into one place or through simulations separately.

What Is AR?

Where VR immerses you in the digital world, AR is about presenting digital objects or information within the physical space. For instance, today, you’ll find AR technology in head-up displays of select cars..


One of the most appealing aspects of using AR for training is how little equipment you need. AR primarily uses the built-in cameras in phones and tablets. Then, it’s just a matter of building (or adopting) a mobile learning app to support it, Compared to the list of equipment needed for VR, training with AR has a lower barrier to entry.

Applications in Training

AR works best for training focused on knowledge sharing. Because AR relies on certain triggers, it works like a teaching aid. In the context of manufacturing training, employees can place their screen over a part and trigger detailed information on what it is and how it is used within the manufacturing process.

Another application for AR in training involves getting around a large warehouse. If you see a product is located in a specific section, you can use your phone and see digital markers for each section of the warehouse. You can then go straight to where your product is located.

What Is MR?

Compared to VR, MR is in its infancy. And based on its behavior, some people consider it to be an advanced version of AR — “AR 2.0,” so to speak.

What many people don’t realize is that MR can also be considered “VR 2.0.” MR combines the digital and physical worlds, like VR, but makes interaction between the two possible (an ability that VR doesn’t currently support).

  • MR in the physical world: In MR, you navigate the physical world while using a headset or lens. A headset allows you to remain in the physical world but also show you simulated objects you can reach out to and interact with, as if they were actually there.
  • MR in the virtual world: When you are in the simulated environment, objects in your real space (like a sofa or a chair) are interpreted by sensors and represented in your virtual space. For example, in a spy game, that chair in your dining room can become a statue for you to hide behind.


When it comes to equipment, MR currently uses some of the most advanced headsets available. The Microsoft Hololens is among the leaders in this technology, but this will likely be a heavily contested market. Google and Apple are both expected to release MR headsets, and there are bound to be others hitting the market as well.

Applications in Training

MR can revolutionize in situ training (IST). Rather than take time to train before you get on the job, you can receive guidance as you work. Again, considering the manufacturing industry, MR allows learners to see and interact with 3D diagrams of the components they are building so they can test the model before assembling the real thing.

In medicine, MR has been used as a collaboration and training tool. Using MR, surgeons can share models and assist the surgeon in the room with the patient to minimize mistakes. Experienced doctors can assist novice ones using MR, as well as those with limited access to resources.

What Is XR?

The final abbreviation to discuss is XR, which stands for extended reality. This is an umbrella term used to cover the three technologies we’ve discussed above. While we currently separate them, it’s easy to imagine a future where human beings navigate between the three along with physical reality. In the future, we may very well live in a perpetual state of extended reality.

In Conclusion

The world now consists of several realities. you can immerse yourself in a completely virtual world or remain in the physical reality with a blend of digital objects. Now that you know the difference between VR, AR and MR, you are better prepared to determine which, if any, of these technologies can support training efforts in your organization.