Virtual Reality Vs. Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two closely similar technologies trying to take over the same marketplace. VR is a digital recreation of the environment around the user, whilst AR overlays visual elements in the real world. But what if we looked at them working together instead of against each other…

Could convergence be on the horizon?

As experienced in multiple new developments, both virtual and augmented reality work well together as part of the increasingly popular experience of mixed reality.

What is mixed reality? In simple terms, it’s a mixture of reality and virtuality. On the reality-virtuality continuum, the middle area between these two extremes is known as mixed reality.

Diagram of the virtuality continuum

At Sundance last year, the startup company Magic Leap made its debut with the Magic Leap One Headset, to show the potential of mixed reality experiences. There were a number of augmented reality films that premiered using this technology. In particular, A Jester’s Tale, which follows a fictional storyline in a child’s bedroom, blurring a fairy tale with a CAPTCHA test. In this interactive narrative the characters seen through the Magic Leap experience are hollow meshes and constantly demanding proof that you are human. A Jester’s Tale represents what AR could become in the future, by blurring the line between realities and reflecting on our world in the digital age.

Could VR and AR push their respective boundaries and merge together to form a new version of mixed reality?

At the 2020 South by Southwest Film Festival, technology company Magic Leap will premiere The Last Light, a new immersive cinema experience using the Magic Leap’s spatial computing capabilities to tell the story of a grandmother and granddaughter’s relationship. The use of the Magic Leap One technology allows the viewer to observe the personal family moments of the narrative as they unfold within the exhibition space around them.

The presence of this new wave of immersive cinema at the South by Southwest Film Festival is the latest in a growing movement to showcase storytelling through mobile augmented reality and head-mounted virtual reality experiences.

As these technologies are both relatively new forms, there are no set rules relating to storytelling methods. Every new project is an experiment to see how far we can go in these early stages. There are no rules to break in this exploration of storytelling within immersive environments.

We are still at the initial stages of experimenting with mixed reality and are at the equivalent of the beginning years of cinema, (when The Lumière Brothers allegedly sent a theatre full of people running for their lives).

Image Credit: Virtual Reality Htc Vive GIF by Leroy Patterson

Firstly we need to get past the spectacle and find out the preferred grammar of storytelling for this medium. But, this cannot be done without a large degree of experimentation and exploration.

How will virtual and augmented reality transform storytelling? Maybe if these two technologies were to fully merge together we would experience its full potential and truly believe the stories we’d see.

Written by Grace Moore

Disney has a secret love for VR?!

Does Disney see a future full of virtual reality films?

In the last couple years Disney has shown a massive interest in the virtual reality market. Transporting you into the world of Disney with Disney Movies VR, investing millions in Jaunt XR’s startup funding series, creating a Marvel based VR game played in the back of an Audi with Holoride technology, and a location based VR game for Disney Animation’s late 2018 release of Ralph Breaks the Internet.

At the beginning of this year Marvel’s Avengers Rockets Rescue Run was launched for CES 2019. It works by using Holoride to track the movements of the car and simulating these same movements in VR. An initial trial of the Holoride technology by Audi shows that 53% of participants trying out this new technology didn’t feel the motion sickness that is traditionally associated with VR experiences. Could the matching up of the visual experience and physical experience in virtual reality potentially solve this problem of motion sickness?

Graph shows user testing from the initial trial of the Holoride technology by Audi in January 2019. Image Credit: Audi Electronics Venture

When Ralph Breaks VR officially opened in late November 2018 it was a huge hit for Walt Disney Animation Studios, ILMxLAB and The Void. In this real-time hyper-reality adventure, you and your friends break into the internet to play a video game with the characters of Ralph Breaks the Internet. The Void itself is a fully immersive experience that allows you to walk around inside the action, making the adventure feel even more realistic.


Late last year Walt Disney Animation Studios created it’s first ever VR short-film, Cycles, and have been showing it off at film festivals for the past couple of months. During Sundance Film Festival 2019, Disney announced that they will be making many more ventures into virtual reality film. With Cycles being the first of many.

Is Disney stepping into the cinematic virtual reality market with new gotta-see-it content?

Cycles – First VR short of Disney Animation
Image Credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios

At Sundance Film Festival Disney also announced that it has greenlit another ‘top secret’ VR experiment from the Animation Studios. Likely to be a VR short directed by Jeff Gibson, with Disney’s existing cast of characters placed in virtual reality. This will fit in nicely with its growing collection of VR experiences, from the animated dioramas in Disney Movies VR to the imminent launch of Disney+ (the online streaming service for all things Disney which could potentially host VR content in the future).

Image Credit: Walt Disney Company

At Disney’s D23 Expo last weekend Star Wars fans were introduced to the next chapter in the immersive virtual reality game, Vadar Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series. Made by ILMxLAB for the Oculus Quest. ILMxLAB revealed a few minutes of cinematic real time footage to the audience via their exclusive panel. The experience is set to be a three part VR series combining immersive cinematic storytelling with dramatic interactive play.

All of this recent interest proves that VR is something this media titan wants to explore and experiment with. They can see the potential in this risky new technology and want to be at the forefront of exploration into it’s storytelling possibilities.

Will Disney’s dabbling in VR bring back the hype in virtual reality content? Maybe this indication of Disney’s interest in virtual reality is the next big step needed to improve our knowledge of the medium. So the question is, will Disney make VR the new cinema for the masses?

Written by Grace Moore