Litesport 101 · Virtual Reality · May 17, 2023

Virtual vs. Augmented vs. Mixed Reality: What Does It All Mean?

Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality… what does it all mean?! Think of these realities as all existing on one long spectrum. At one end is your real environment, with zero digital input. On the opposite end is virtual reality, a completely digital space. Between the two exists mixed and augmented reality where real and virtual worlds combine.1 2 And these technologies continue to grow and expand, opening the door to a wide world of immersive experiences and possibilities. 

Join us as we break down this virtual reality landscape, sharing the differences between virtual, augmented, and mixed reality. Plus, ways you can (and do!) experience these different realities firsthand.

Virtuality Continuum

What Is Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality or VR is the use of computer technology to create a digital simulated environment.3 With VR, you’re stepping away from the real world and entering a three-dimensional virtual world. This is thanks to computer-programmed elements that trick your senses into thinking you’re in a completely different place.4 VR hardware, like the Meta Quest headset, produces a sensory experience while VR software components, like computer vision, artificial intelligence, and 3D modeling, construct a virtual environment. Together, they generate a fully immersive experience.3 5

How Does Virtual Reality Work?

There’s a big difference between the immersive environment of virtual reality and watching TV or playing a game on your phone. And that’s because VR does more than just place a screen in front of your field of vision. A VR headset is complete with speakers, cameras, LED screens, lenses, motion sensors, and more to completely replace your real-world view with a computer-generated one.5

A built-in LED screen displays the world of virtual reality. But what makes it life-like and 3D are two embedded stereoscopic lenses that mimic your natural vision by displaying the screen through two slightly different angles, just like your eyes do in the real world. This trick creates an illusion of depth that makes the simulated environment look real.3

Motion sensors pick up your movement to adjust the screen while infrared cameras alter the lighting. Audio is also key to recreating a three-dimensional space. VR mimics how your ears capture sound in the real world by trading surround sound for something called spatial audio. Speakers built into the headset pump out sounds that shift and change depending on your location. Put together, this creates a very realistic, multi-dimensional simulated environment.5

But unlike watching TV, you’re not just sitting in virtual reality. The key to this life-like experience is not only displaying a 3D field of vision but for that field of vision to shift and change as you move. To accomplish this, VR headsets use head and position tracking sensors. And there are two different types:5 

  • Three Degrees of Freedom (3DoF): Tracks the motion of your head only, such as looking left or right or up and down. 
  • Six Degrees of Freedom (6DoF): Tracks the motion of your head and body. It enables a full 360° view so that you can look all around your environment and even move forward and backward in space. Meta Quest uses this type of position tracking for their headsets. 

With the help of motion sensors and position tracking, you can do more than just passively engage in virtual reality. You can navigate your virtual environment, reach out and grab objects, interact with virtual characters, or even work out with virtual battle ropes, speed bags, and trainers! The options are endless.


What Is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) blends real with digital by overlaying digitally generated content on top of your real-world environment.6 A great example of this is the popular Pokémon Go mobile app. In the game, you walk around the real world finding and capturing digital Pokémon that appear on your phone.4 It’s so realistic that when you're looking at your phone it feels like the Pokémon is standing right there in front of you. 

And that’s the power of augmented reality. It’s taking a 2D screen (your phone) and creating a 3D experience (the Pokémon) by incorporating that element into your direct surrounding.6 Other examples of AR include Snapchat or TikTok filters, makeup application apps, and Google Glasses. Another example is retail sites like Wayfair or Target. Their apps let you digitally place an item in your room to get a sense of how it looks and feels before purchasing.7 Or another example is an augmented reality Google Search that lets you place a very real-looking tiger in your living room...


Augmented vs. Virtual Reality

Augmented reality enhances your real-world environment with digital elements. It augments your reality without taking you out of your reality.4 Virtual reality, on the other hand, doesn’t take place in the real world. It reconstructs the real world in a digital space that transports you away from where you are to somewhere completely new or different.3 5

The hardware required is different as well. To experience this virtual world you need hardware like a headset. But with augmented reality, you can use a smartphone, tablet, or smart glasses.7

Augmented vs virtual reality

Image credit: Microsoft 

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

To place a digital object in your real-world environment you need a device that contains certain hardware components including a processor, a display, an input device like a camera, and sensors like a compass or GPS.7 Most smartphones today contain this hardware.6 

All these components work together to create a life-like 3D experience on your 2D device. The input device, like the camera on your smartphone, captures details about your surroundings.6 Sensors like your GPS and compass pinpoint your exact location and device orientation.6 7 Then, the software processes the image and sensor signals to display a digital element in real time.8

What Is Mixed Reality?

In virtual reality, you exist entirely in a made-up world. With augmented reality, you exist in the real world with digital elements overlaid on top. With mixed reality (MR), the real and virtual worlds merge together in a way that blurs the boundaries between physical and digital. It combines elements of both augmented and virtual reality to create immersive experiences in which users engage with both their physical and digital surroundings.1 9

In MR, you can see and interact with your physical environment while immersing yourself in a virtual world.4 A great example of mixed reality in action is Litesport. With passthrough mode enabled in workouts like Total Body or Strength, your trainers look like they’re right there with you in your very-real room as they guide you through a workout. But, unlike the real world, interactive VR elements and dynamic sound effects make the workout more fun and immersive. 

MR opens up a ton of possibilities for everything from gaming to working to working out.9 Like collaborating with virtual coworkers while typing on your real-world keyboard. Or fighting virtual reality zombies popping out from behind the desk in your actual bedroom. Or working out to the beat of top-charting music with a best-in-class trainer who looks like they’re standing in the center of your living room…

How Does Mixed Reality Work? 

MR requires a holographic device, like Microsoft HoloLens, or an immersive device, like a Meta Quest VR headset. Holographic devices display digital objects in your real-world view as if they’re really there.10 The cameras on your Meta Quest headset can detect and display a real-time view of your real-world surroundings and incorporate them into your virtual reality. It then overlays digital objects onto the real physical world.

The key feature of MR is that it enables you to move around and interact with these virtual objects as if they were tangible, while also having access to accurate visual cues from the real environment. But it’s not as simple as displaying a live video feed of your physical world. Mixed reality, using a headset like Meta Quest, completely reconstructs your physical world into your virtual one. The core technology behind mixed reality is the use of computer vision algorithms, which allow machines to detect and track physical objects in real-time. Computer vision is combined with other complex technologies like AI-powered Scene Understanding, high-resolution sensors, Passthrough, Spatial Anchors, and more that help construct a real-life scene.9

Mixed reality is still in its early stages of development but it has already proven to have immense potential. As mixed reality continues to evolve and becomes more sophisticated, it will no doubt have a profound impact on how we interact with our surroundings and experience reality. 

Ready to experience the power of virtual, augmented, and mixed reality? Join us on Litesport for an immersive workout experience, unlike anything you’ve tried before. And you can give us a go worry-free with a 7-day free trial, zero money down. 


  1. Mattoo, S. (2022, September 16). What Is Mixed Reality? The Better Side of Technology. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  2. What is Virtuality Continuum? (2022). The Interaction Design Foundation.
  3. Bardi, J. (2019, March 26). What Is Virtual Reality: Definitions, Devices, and Examples. 3D Cloud by Marxent. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  4. VR vs. AR vs. MR: What You Need to Know. (n.d.). Intel. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  5. Mattoo, S. (2022, September 6). Virtual Reality: The Promising Future of Immersive Technology. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  6. Mattoo, S. (2022, June 3). What Is Augmented Reality and How Can It Drive Growth? Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  7. Gillis, A. S. (2022, November 18). Augmented reality (AR). Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  8. Jasenovcova, L. (2022, August 10). What is augmented reality and how does AR work? Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  9. Introducing Meta Reality: A Look at the Technologies Necessary to Convincingly Blend the Virtual and Physical Worlds. (2022, December 19). Meta. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from
  10. What is mixed reality? (2023, January 24). Microsoft Learn. Retrieved May 11, 2023, from

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