Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

7 min read
Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

As technology advances and develops, new concepts move to the forefront, demanding attention. Although the early forms of AR and VR have been around for some time, the technology is still young, with ample room for improvement.

This article delves into Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality to help you understand the differences and potential of the two, so keep reading to learn more!

Image Credit [L to R]: Snapchat, Niantic

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Augmented Reality, also known as AR, combines the digital world with reality. The technology combines various digital elements with physical, real components, creating a semi-artificial environment.

Different app developers use AR technology for both mobile and desktop apps, creating a scenario that seamlessly blends digital elements into the real world. For instance, consider trendy Snapchat filters. They are a typical example of AR technology in action. The digital component meshes with the actual world, creating a modified reality.

How Does AR Work?

AR works via computer vision, mapping, and depth tracking. The trio of information helps create and display appropriate content to the particular user. The technology enables the camera to collect, transfer, and process data to display applicable content to the user.

In the world of Augmented Reality, the user navigates within their physical environment that is enhanced with contextually relevant digital elements, but in real-time. AR technology is available for various devices, including smartphones, tablets, or certain types of special hardware.

AR with Krikey

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Image Credit: Oculus VR

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Virtual Reality (VR) is an environment entirely isolated from reality. The technology creates a computer-generated simulation of an alternate world. Its most common uses include 3D movies and video games, where users can “disappear” into an alternate reality.

VR creates simulations that mimic real-world scenarios, allowing users to “immerse” themselves in the world via computers and various sensory devices, including headsets and gloves. Aside from entertainment uses, VR is also used for education, training, and science.

Image Credit: Sandbox VR

How Does VR Work?

For the VR experience, users need to use a VR headset screen placed in front of their eyes. Since VR focuses on simulating the vision, VR technology users must use sensory devices like headsets and gloves. This eliminates any interaction with the real world.

VR devices work using two lenses between the screens. As the user adjusts their eyes, what they see adjusts based on the individual movement of each eye and its positioning. Generally, visuals on the screen can be rendered via an HDMI cable connected to a mobile phone or PC.

The constructed reality feels immersive since it targets and uses visual, auditory, and haptic (touch) simulation. You can achieve the whole immersive experience using goggles, speakers, and even handheld wearable devices to create a “real-world” feel.

Differences Between AR & VR

Although AR and VR are somewhat similar in name, several elements differentiate the two. From the actual technology to the experience, AR and VR are significantly different.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Virtual Reality (VR)

Builds on and augments real-world elements

Creates an entirely immersive virtual world

25% virtual elements, 75% real elements

Almost 100% virtual elements (in 360)

Sense of presence in the real world

Senses are under the control of the virtual system

Users undergo a partially immersive experience

Users undergo a fully immersive experience

Doesn’t always require special devices (headset, gloves, etc)

Requires a VR headset device

Can enhance real and virtual worlds

Solely enhances entirely fictional realities

Image Credit: Apple Developer

What Are The Similarities?

Despite the significant differences between AR and VR, the two share several fundamental similarities. Both require 3D content composition to create an enhanced experience. These digital components may be magnified or life-sized objects.

In addition, the two technologies require similar devices and command the same senses. Users can access VR and AR through smartphones, AR/VR headsets, tablets, PCs, iPads, controllers, lenses, accessories, etc. While headsets are commonly associated with VR, some AR applications also require them.

Users must employ various senses to use VR or AR applications, including hand, eye, finger, body, and motion tracking on advanced AR/VR headsets. They both offer some degree of immersion to the user, although VR offers total immersion.

Advantages: Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality provide unique advantages. A few of the benefits or advantages of AR include:

  • Access to individualized learning
  • Assists developers in constructing games that provide “real” experiences to users
  • Promotes the learning process
  • Boosted accuracy
  • Wide variety of fields
  • Can be used to increase user information and knowledge
  • People from all over the globe can share experiences

On the flip side, a few benefits of VR include:

  • Fully immersive learning experience
  • Increased work capabilities
  • Creates an interactive environment
  • Convenient
  • Creates a realistic world, allowing users to explore from the comfort of their own home
  • Makes education more manageable, accessible, and comfortable
  • Allows users to experiment and manipulate an artificial world
Image Credit: Playstation

Disadvantages: AR vs. VR

Although AR and VR technologies offer extensive benefits, a set of disadvantages accompanies each. Several of the cons or drawbacks of AR include:

  • Extremely expensive to implement and develop projects stemming from AR, maintenance is tricky as well
  • Lack of privacy
  • Low-performance level of certain devices
  • Can lead to mental health issues
  • Constant engagement with the technology can cause major health concerns, including eye issues, obesity, etc.
  • Overall lack of security may cause issues for AR

On the other hand, VR also has a unique set of drawbacks. A few of the disadvantages of the technology include:

  • Although it is becoming more common, programmers will never interact with the environment.
  • Training done over VR scenarios rarely has the same result as training/working in the real world.
  • Escapism can become a problem as users turn to VR environments instead of facing real-world problems.
Image Credit [L to R]: Unity, Air Force Medical Service

Applications: AR vs. VR

AR and VR technology appears in various applications across various industries and speciality fields. A few applications of AR include:

  • Various apps that embed text, images, videos, etc.: used in Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, etc.
  • Certain printing and advertising industries are incorporating AR technology to show digital content over the top of existing, real-world magazines.
  • Some translation apps use AR to interpret the text in various languages to make it easier for the user to understand.
  • AR is appearing in various real-time 3D games with the use of the Unity 3d Engine tool.

Some of the major applications of VR include:

  • VR is becoming a primary treatment method for individuals contending with post-traumatic stress.
  • It’s used to construct and enhance fictional reality, which is popular in the gaming world.
  • It may be used in military applications to help with flight simulations, battlefield simulations, etc.
  • VR may also be used by medical students to safely practice and study procedures.
  • Virtual patients assist students as they learn, helping them develop skills they can implement later on.
  • It’s used in many sports as a digital training device, but also to help measure the athlete’s performance and examine their techniques.
Image Credit: Microsoft

MR (Mixed Reality) - How AR & VR Can Work Together!

Mixed Reality (MR) combines the real world with the virtual world, enabling interaction between the two. This phenomenon combines AR and VR.

This combination could potentially uproot the standard techniques used for various activities across many industries. For example, the combination of AR and VR into MR could revamp healthcare, allowing robots to perform surgeries and assist disabled individuals.

Or, the military could implement the technology to train their soldiers and help familiarize them with military equipment, including robots and drones. Jurors in court could potentially benefit from visualizing crime scenes using VR robots, helping them make an informed decision.

The potential extent of MR’s reach is extensive, and it may make its way to additional, unforeseen applications. The benefits of VR and AR could extend far beyond the entertainment industry, impacting healthcare, the military, business sectors, and so many more.

Image Credit: Microsoft

How The Future of AR & VR Might Look Like!

AR and VR technologies are still young in the grand scheme of things, which leaves plenty of room for development and expansion. Challenges will need to be eliminated before they truly become mainstream technologies, creating a more user-friendly experience.

As developers eliminate hiccups in the technologies, VR and AR will likely become more widespread, reaching many different sectors and industries. The potential is there, it just needs time to grow!

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