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Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality: their Differences and Similarities

From gaming to marketing, both augmented and virtual reality are garnering a lot of attention. While the term reality is used by both, there is still a notable difference between AR and VR. With distinct characteristics between the two, you might be wondering how exactly do they differ from each other.

Both augmented reality and virtual reality have large applications in different industries, especially with the rise of digital innovations. For instance, experts have applied augmented reality for art and virtual reality in e-learning with varying degrees of success. These innovations are proof of AR and VR’s usefulness and success in today’s fast paced technological world.

Despite the increased interest in both virtual and augmented reality in gaming, marketing, brand development, and entertainment industries, many people still confuse the two. In this article we clarify the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality and let you know how you can maximize the two.

Image credits to Pexels

Augmented vs Virtual Reality: What’s the difference between AR and VR?

Both technologies are fairly recent developments, which is why it’s quite understandable why many people still get confused between them. Even though augmented reality and virtual reality are very closely related, it is quite inaccurate to say that they are twins; rather experts would say that they are cousins: very similar but with noticeable and important differences.

The major difference between AR and VR is the world you experience. With VR, you immerse yourself in a virtual world; whereas in augmented reality, you experience the “real world”. 

Virtual Reality

When people think of virtual reality, they probably visualize The Matrix or highly advanced systems. While these do capture a glimmer of truth, today’s virtual reality isn’t quite exactly how virtual systems work. Virtual reality functions with the help of immersion as it hopes to let people experience a world that is entirely virtual and simulated.

With virtual reality, you experience the world with technology and gadgets. If you’re familiar with VR headsets and VR hand gears, then you would have an idea how virtual reality functions. It is through these pieces of technology that you are transported into virtual places. In a virtual reality, you are immersed in a simulated reality and can experience events in these virtual worlds.

Virtual reality is used in 3D movies and video games. Popular games such as Tekken 7 and Batman Arkham are some of the hallmarks of VR gaming. Both are available on the PlayStation 4 and both involve the need for an additional VR headset that is compatible with the PlayStation 4. 

While it is quite popular in the gaming industry, VR is also a good option for educational materials for training and even scientific research and procedures. Virtual reality allows individuals to experience certain procedures albeit in a simulated environment, equipping them with practical knowledge and a deeper understanding of certain situations.

One major difference between AR and VR is that with the latter, the world is entirely made up or simulated. While virtual reality may take inspiration from real life models, VR is usually contained in technology and has no connections to the user’s external environment.

Augmented Reality

On the other hand, augmented reality focuses on enhancing the experience of the user’s external world. Augmented reality technology has become quite common nowadays and for some, may not even be obvious parts of their everyday lives. From mobile phones to gaming consoles, AR lets individuals experience an augmented world.

One of the easiest ways to discern the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality is to look at the device used and the intention of the technology. Since augmented reality combines the physical world with computer-generated virtual elements, AR usually uses mobile devices.

An excellent example of augmented reality is the famous game Pokemon Go! Using mobile phones, users were able to capture pocket monsters in actual locations through the use of location tracking and cameras. Unlike virtual reality games, Pokemon Go! did not bring its players into a virtual world, rather it encouraged the players to go out and capture more pocket monsters that can be seen in the real world.

It makes no claims of a virtual world, rather enhances the user’s current world with technology. This lets them experience the real world in a fresh way, such that the augmented reality technology makes a sizable impact on how individuals can experience the physical world.

But What Is Mixed Reality? 

We have heard “mixed reality” pop up almost every time people talk about augmented reality and virtual reality. So let’s take a moment to distinguish this from the two.

According to technology leader Paul Mealy, mixed reality can be found in either an augmented reality or virtual reality environment. Mealy says augmented reality-based MR occurs when users can interact with the augmented reality art in real-time. So if you can pet a 3D animal overlaid on your environment, and it reacts, that’s an example of mixed reality in action.

Virtual reality-based MR is a little more complicated. The objects in your immediate environment become 3D art in your virtual environment. According to Mealy, mixed reality technology happens when the “digital environment is connected to real-world objects around you.”

Image credits to Pexels

Applications of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

Like we said earlier, augmented reality and virtual reality are technologies applicable in most industries. You might see them often in:

  • Tourism 
  • Engineering and manufacturing
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Healthcare
  • E-learning

In tourism, virtual reality and augmented reality technology work hand in hand. One study finds that people’s interest in traveling to a particular destination increases when VR is used as a marketing tool. This provides destination marketers an enhanced and more informative strategy to influence prospective customers to travel. The same goes for augmented reality. Superimposing images on real environments, which is essentially what AR does, gives more opportunities for tourists to interact with their environment, improving their overall satisfaction, another study suggests.

Engineering and manufacturing is another industry greatly benefiting from the immersiveness — and capacity for real-time collaboration — of virtual reality and augmented reality art. According to Steve Aukstakalnis, these technologies allow companies to visualize big data, resulting in fewer design errors and even eliminating manufacturers’ need for physical prototypes. Moreover, he notes when manufacturing takes place through VR technology, people across the globe could collaborate on a project simultaneously.

Meanwhile, marketing and advertising can effectively make use of virtual reality and augmented reality development. A client needed the help of our digital artists to render 3D versions of furniture. Interested buyers can use these 3D assets and the power of augmented reality technology to see how a piece looks in their space. This is a helpful marketing tool as it moves prospective customers closer to conversion and reduces the likelihood of returns.

As for healthcare, numerous therapy programs employ virtual reality technology to aid a patient’s healing. And in the education sectorvirtual reality and augmented reality art have been proven to facilitate experiential learning.

AR versus VR: Which is Better?

While it can be quite difficult for non-experts to precisely describe how augmented reality is different from virtual reality, AR and VR accomplish two different goals in very distinct ways. Despite the similar looking devices, AR and VR interact with users and the world quite differently. The former enhances the external world with technology and graphics while the latter blocks it off and lets the user become immersed in a virtual world.

Now that there’s a clearer understanding of AR and VR, perhaps the next big question is which technology is better?

Both are brilliant technological developments and both have been garnering attention and popularity over the past years. However, because of the different directions that augmented reality and virtual reality go veer towards, it’s actually quite hard to give a definitive answer to this question. If you’re trying to decide whether you will use augmented reality or virtual reality, it is best to consider your goals and budget before jumping on one boat.

Here’s a quick table comparison on the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality:

augments the real world with graphic overlayscompletely immersive virtual environment
obvious presence of the real worlda controlled system blocked off from the real world
depends on the technology enhancements to drive the users’ immersionfully immerses users into the virtual world by design
requires 100 mbps of bandwidthrequires at least 50 mbps connection 
uses mobile devices and usually does not require further devicesrequires virtual headsets and other devices to fully immerse users
user is still in touch with the real worlduser is fully blocked off from the real world
enhances the fictional and real world aspect of the experiencefully fictional, therefore enhances only the fictional or virtual world
may need adjustments when it comes to soft skills training (e.g. leadership and social trainings)optimized for soft skills content training
less expensivehigh upfront cost
will need occasional updates to maintain qualitywill need occasional updates to maintain quality

A Brief Look into the Costs of AR and VR

Aside from world that the users experience, the differences between AR and VR also lies in the cost of the technologies and application. Augmented reality technology is less expensive than virtual reality. Take into consideration the regular updates that both technologies will need so you can work out which will fit your budget in the long run. Most importantly, consider how you will be using both as VR is more suited for certain types of trainings and activities.

Can AR and VR Work Together?

The answer is a resounding yes!

Despite the difference between AR and VR, it would be wrong to separate them entirely. In fact, considering how both technologies operate, it is not entirely out of this world to seamlessly blend them to create an elevated experience for users. Together, these two can create a world that engages users and helps them further experience a fictional reality in real time. 

What’s Next for AR and VR?

With the release of games like Pokemon Go! and Oculus Rift, both augmented reality and virtual reality are becoming more accessible. Both have not achieved their full potential mostly because of difficulties in rendering 3D environments and life-like objects in real time, making augmented reality and virtual reality a high-end alternative for other industries. That isn’t to say this won’t change in the near future.

Given AR and VR’s innovation and practical use in gaming, entertainment, training, marketing, and other fields, both technologies will probably be applied in several ways. After all, augmented reality and virtual reality can change the way we use computers. Because both augmented reality and virtual reality have different value propositions, the developments that these two bring will greatly impact how we generally interact with training, games, and entertainment industries in different ways.

In Summary

Augmented reality technology alters a user’s immediate environment by superimposing 3D digital art users can see using their devices.

On the other hand, virtual reality technology completely immerses a user into a new environment, usually with the use of a head-mounted display.

Some of the industries that can derive a ton of benefits from using AR and VR are:

The industries they are most used in are:

  • Tourism 
  • Engineering and manufacturing
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Healthcare
  • E-learning

Want your business to benefit from augmented and virtual reality art development? 

Impress your target audience and boost your company’s conversion rate by outsourcing our services today! Contact us to get a free consultation at sales@narrasoft.com or send us a message on our chat box or contact form.