So we’ve been experimenting with extended reality (XR) technology for disaster management and media planning for roughly a year now. We’ve been discussing use cases, building mock-ups, and creating prototype applications. A key question we’ve been coming back to again and again is this one:

Which kind of XR should we use for which scenario?

While there is no ultimate answer (yet), the following table already provides a lot of guidance – and might be useful for other projects as well (which is why we’re sharing it):

Augmented Reality (AR)Mixed Reality
Virtual Reality
What does it do?Adds (layers of) information on top of the real world.Does everything that AR does.

Allows for (more or less elaborate) interaction with objects anchored in the real world.
Replaces the real world with (a more or less elaborate) virtual one.
ProsLightweight and relatively easy to create.

Can almost always be used in the field.

Already available to a large number of users.
Allows for a gradual shift from AR to VR.

Can theoretically be used in the field (at some point).

Arguably the most versatile and sustainable XR technology.
Enables full immersion and zero distraction.

Sophisticated simulations can create a great level of detail and authenticity while keeping users safe from real-world harm.
ConsLimited extra information.

Limited immersion.
Calls for a lot of computing power.

Devices are still very expensive.
Use is limited to a control room / office environment
HardwareAR-ready smartphone or tabletMR headset (e.g. Microsoft Hololens)VR headset (e.g. Meta Quest, HTC Vive)

A key insight distilled from the that table would be:

AR is great for quick wins and simple, no-frills solutions. VR will probably always be great for training and planning from the sidelines. And MR is the future of situation awareness, even though the tech still seems a bit pricey and clunky at present.

Photo by James Yarema