The world has been recently taken by storm by two new technologies which have changed the way we experience reality: virtual reality and augmented reality. Each of them has the capacity to enrich the experience of the world around us, but each of them does something clearly different.
To give you a sense of how different the two technologies are, we will start by showing you a well-known graphic presentation – Milgram’s Reality-Virtuality Continuum:
As the graph above shows, augmented reality is an extension of the real world, while virtual reality is the total opposite of real world. In other words, augmented reality adds something to the environment we see and interact with, and virtual reality creates a brand new environment, which has no connection to the real one.
However, let us take you further into the detailed presentation of these two technologies, which will help you understand the fundamental differences between them.
What Virtual Reality Does
Virtual reality is a technology which creates computer-generated environments. These environments can be anything the creator of the VR experience wishes: a reconstructed ancient city, a fantasy world, a distant planet in the solar system, etc.
Virtual reality is a fully immersive 3D experience. The user’s eyes and ears should be completely shut off from the real world in order to be able to perceive only the stimuli given by the virtual reality headset. This means that whenever they move their head, their hands and feet, people wearing a VR headset will see, hear and perceive movements of the CGI (computer-generated imagery) objects in the virtual environment.
Virtual reality can be experienced both in an active way (by playing games) or in a passive way (by watching movies).
What Augmented Reality Does
Augmented reality is a less immersive experience than virtual reality. Users are still aware of the real world around them – in fact, this is a basic requirement of using augmented reality apps and hardware.
In augmented reality, users see virtual objects added to the real world they see, either through smart glasses (like the Google Glass) or through the camera of their smartphone. By its intents and purposes, augmented reality can only be experienced in an active manner. Users need to interact with the real world and decide where they want to place the CGI objects. Because of this, augmented reality has, at the present, more practical applications than virtual reality, especially in terms of shopping and beauty apps.
Virtual reality can be only experienced using specialized equipment (VR goggles or headsets) attached to a computer or a smartphone. Augmented reality, on the other hand, can be experienced either with the help of smart glasses, or directly on the smartphone screen (for example, while playing games like Pokemon Go or using a retail app to view products in your home before buying them).
Which Is More Useful, Virtual Reality or Augmented Reality?
The answer to this question is that both technologies are useful in specific areas of different industries. There is no direct competition between them, because each technology has a different application.
For instance, virtual reality can be used to generate a human body and allow medicine students to interact with internal organs and understand how our organism works, while augmented reality can be used by nurses and doctors to project the network of veins on a patient’s arm in order to draw blood in a painless manner.
As both technologies continue to evolve, it is more than likely that they will become more and more different from one other. At the same time, their use will become standard practice in specific industries and people will find it easier to make the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality.