David Papp Blog

4 Essential Differences Between Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

There is no denying that technology has rapidly changed the way we go about our days. But one thing we may not have noticed so much is how technology has changed how we engage with technology overall.

I mean sure it might be so intuitive we don’t even notice it. But there’s a lot that’s changed. And one way to see that is taking a look at virtual reality and augmented reality. VR and AR.

These – along with mixed reality (MR) – have taken the stage and many people have shown a great interest in this technology. We see it mostly in the gaming industry, but there have been rumors of other companies dabbling in this technology. Like Apple.

But as these two technologies have grown in prominence, it’s important to know the differences between these two technologies. So to help with that, here are some big differences if you’re not familiar with this tech.

What Is VR & AR Exactly?

To state the obvious, one difference is the description of the technology itself. I want to highlight this first as it’ll help to better understand the other differences.

Virtual reality in it’s simplistic form is something you can experience in the comfort of your own home. One way to look at it is that it’s a video game. But instead of watching the character move around on the screen, YOU are the character moving.

In order for this to happen there are two things that need to work: the hardware and the software.

On the other hand, augmented reality is a computer-generated simulation. It can be either 3D or 2D, but whatever the technology creates, it becomes superimposed on what you’re seeing in the real world.

You could say it augments our reality.

What’s also worth noting here is we’ve been exposed to AR more than VR in various ways. We’ve seen AR experiences depicted in various forms in films. Movies like Wall-E, Iron Man, Avatar, Minority Report and others. Even the popular app Pokemon Go is a real life example of AR.

The Immersion

Now that you have an understanding of the technology involved, we can start to see some key differences. One big one to note is the entire immersion.

Sure both technologies use both software and hardware to work. But it’s how they use it to create immersion. With VR, you’re being placed directly into the world. The world is generated by a computer, but you’re going to feel like you’re in those environments.

When you’re in an augmented reality, it’s only enhancing reality. Again, it’s only augmenting it. It’s adding digital information and then slapping it into a reality we’re already familiar with.

Devices Are Different

Because the immersion is different, it makes sense the devices are different as well.

For VR you need to have a stand alone device for this to work. After all, other technologies we have aren’t designed with VR in mind. For any VR experience you’d be turning to tech like Oculus Rifts or other VR technology.

With AR though you don’t run into that. While there is such a thing as AR headsets and other AR tech, it’s not always needed. All AR needs is a computer, smartphone, or a tablet. This makes sense since AR is all about keeping you in reality and augmenting it in some way.

Application In Other Industries

While I’ve stuck to a sort of gaming industry focus, both of these technologies can appeal to a wide variety of industries. But in that lays differences too.

Both technologies can be used in different contexts in other industries. For example, we could use these technologies for education.

VR technology can allow a student to not only learn about a point in history, but can enter a world where they can experience those things.

On the other hand, AR can provide more practical lessons since it’s not putting you in a whole new world. Some of those considerations are outlined in a post here.

VR & AR Have Their Uses

There is no superior technology here as each one has their own merits and applications. But at the same time it’s important for us to know these differences moving forward. After all this technology is different and how you experience it is different.