VR Painting from “Paint With Me” project created by Lynda Joy Gerry, premiered at Trailer Park Festival I/O, July 21st, 2017. Photo by Billetto Editorial / Unsplash

Virtual Reality has become a trend in recent years due to advances in artificial intelligence. It’s not only cool a futuristic trend, but it’s also a reflection of how advanced technology has become. Virtual reality is an umbrella term for the broad concept of interactive computer-generated simulation. It essentially breaks down into three differentiated categories: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality. Each category boasts a different ratio of digital components to reality.

Virtual Reality

Full digital immersion

1. VR Headsets

VR Headsets have made virtual reality more accessible to those fascinated by Virtual Reality. Companies like Samsung and Microsoft have come out with headsets that require only a cellular device to work. These headsets have made their way into the art space as it challenges artists with an unfamiliar canvas, but also breaks away from traditional art forms. Artists are utilizing virtual tools to experiment with the medium.

Users enjoy an interactive exhibit through VR headsets and hand-held equipment. Photo by Ladislav Faigl / CC BY-SA 3.0

2. VR Pop-ups/Demos

Another way VR has become more accessible is through the various VR experience kiosks opening at shopping malls. This is more directed at young adults and adolescents that hang around malls. Included in this recreational VR experience is typically a gaming aspect where users put on VR goggles and play a game while immersed in a digital environment.

Augmented Reality

Real world interaction with digital elements

3. Snapchat filters

A perfect example of augmented reality are filters on the social media app Snapchat. Virtual elements like flower crowns and animal ears are put on top of real-time images of a person. Snapchat utilizes facial recognition to perfectly fit headpieces, facial enhancing features, and moving elements.

4. Games

One other way to experience augmented reality is through downloadable games on your phone. A popular AR game is Pokemon GO. Users use their phone to scan their surroundings for Pokemon and then capture them. The app uses the phone’s camera to scan the user’s physical environment to make virtual Pokemon appear on their screen.

VR Mobile Game
AR mobile games helped popularize the medium among mainstream audiences. Image by David Grandmougin / Unsplash

Mixed Reality

Simultaneous real world interaction with virtual world

5. Simulation-based learning

Simulation-based learning gives students a hands-on experience learning how to apply their skills. This is very popular among the medical field where students can practice things like applying anesthesia or examining organs for surgery. Additionally, simulation-based learning is being implemented into a few schools. With this students can visualize mathematical formulas or even participate in a curated museum trip.

Medical students often learn through virtual simulations, such as practicing surgical procedures or studying anatomical models. Photo by Jesper Aggergaard / Unsplash

6. Working Remotely

By working remotely, you can be anywhere in the world and still progress on your professional projects. Even so, working remotely oftentimes requires mixed reality elements as an avenue for collaboration. An example of this is using a virtual space like Google Hangouts or Zoom to mimic a conference room while all users in the room are in their own respective spaces.

These are just a few of many applications of Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality that are common and accessible to a range of audiences, regardless of technological literacy. VR allows users to immerse themselves in a culture, inside a game and is just the beginning of many possibilities. If you’re interested in learning more about VR, AR, or MR, consider enrolling in one of these courses:

Exploring the Mixed Reality Landscape

Pacific Northwest College of Art


Introduction to 3D Modeling and Animation With Maya

California College of the Arts