Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and now Apple’s spatial computing — each has a different meaning. But this proliferation of terms for the same core concept is a sign of a product category that’s regularly remaking itself in an effort to “catch on” — because so far, it hasn’t.
Augmented reality (adding digital elements to a live view) has resonated with various vertical use cases like architecture, education, retail, and industrial design. Virtual reality (a fully immersive virtual experience) has had some successes with gaming and entertainment. For consumer-oriented products, the most recent experience has followed a mixed-reality model (in which AR and VR co-exist), best exemplified by Meta Oculus Quest 3 and now Apple Vision Pro.