Augmented Reality (AR) vs. Virtual Reality (VR)


High-tech gaming has never been more fun. Virtual reality and augmented reality developers have finally pulled their finger out to keep us entertained after years of failing to meet potential. Marketers and brand developers are also getting excited by the possibilities.  But what’s the difference and which one will come out on top? Here we dig deep into AR and VR technology to offer some of the answers.

What is VR and what is AR?

Virtual reality is a technology that completely immerses the audience in an experience. While it is an expensive technology, it can take you into a completely different world. Alternatively, augmented reality begins in the real world and with the use of a camera or mobile phone, images are inserted onto the screen. 

Both technologies are clever ways of engaging a customer or gamer. It makes experiences that are normally passive more engaging, personal and interactive. 

VR in depth

People, when they think about VR, are taken to the world of The Matrix, where people cannot distinguish the virtual from the real. While VR is a computer-generated simulation used for games and multi-dimensional movies, it is far from a simulation that could fool you into believing it is the real world. 

The simulation does using sensory equipment such as headsets, headphones and gloves to transport you into the scenario. You can be given the feeling of walking through a far-off destination or experiencing training in a complex procedure. It is being used to great effect  in medicine in the training of doctors, specifically surgeons. 

Virtual reality requires a lot of kit and developers are only just starting to work out how people can join each other in the same virtual world. Therefore, co-op games, for instance, are an emerging trend.

AR in depth

Augmented reality is a poor cousin of virtual reality – at least that is what VR developers would say. The truth is that AR developers don’t even pretend to transport you to another reality. The point of AR is superimpose images onto the world around us using the camera on your phone or tablet. Most consumers have the equipment for AR simulations, which makes it a much more usable took for gaming, retail and marketers.

AR combines the physical world with computer generated images. The most famous example is Pokemon Go, which superimposed monsters in different locations of the real world. This led to thousands of children (of lots of ages) wandering around pointing their phone at a point that they are told is a pokemon. The critter is superimposed onto the road, path, river, park, or other, by the smartphone. You can buy goggles that take over your entire field of vision, but this is where VR and AR begin to merge a little. 

The difference and the judgement

Virtual reality and augmented reality achieve two very different things in very different ways. Virtual reality is meant to replace our current reality – so you are no longer in your bedroom but instead in a world fighting demons. Augmented reality projects information on top of the world you are in – what you are already seeing is augmented by a computer-generated image.

While both technologies have a lot of potential, it is clear that AR is a lot more basic than VR. You are visually immersed in a VR headset, which completely covers your field of vision. While there is a move to create “glasses” that make AR more immersive, it is still a projection onto the real world. There is little to keep you immersed when your character disappears as soon as you are not pointing your phone at it.

However, AR technology is both accessible to everybody with a mobile phone and cheaper to develop. VR has been stalling for the longest time because a headset can cost you close to $1000 and this is without the additional equipment to enhance motion in the virtual world.

The pandemic has done much to create the demand and the push for development that has been lacking, especially with VR. There are also some cheaper headsets coming to market that mean ordinary everyday sorts can have a play.

The brief takeaway

In an ideal world we would all have a virtual headset and would be wandering around fantastical worlds. The developers would be excited by the intense experiences they can offer users and there would be extensive choice. In truth, VR tech is too expensive and the amount of content being developed is limited. It is better than it was but it is anyone’s guess whether it will make AR redundant.