Differences between virtual reality and augmented reality

Written on 13/09/2022

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are developed in virtual spaces, but with subtle differences, to make use of any of them we need a device, whether glasses of different types or our own smartphone. Among its applications, the following stand out: entertainment, real estate, decoration, engineering, and any other activity we can imagine, since the possibilities are unlimited.

Several technology companies such as Google, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft are betting on developing and implementing these technologies in their processes and products, since both technologies have been considered as the key breakthroughs of this century. In this sense, VR and AR have the potential to change the way we interact with the digital world. Which makes us wonder, in the future: will there be a difference between the real world and the digital world?

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality or VR is different from the rest because you are completely immersed in a virtual world. This means that it allows you to simulate a complete sensory experience inside an artificial environment without seeing anything on the outside. The idea is to have "A complete immersive virtual experience", to access this virtual world you usually need both special glasses and a headset, these are optional, but it helps in the feeling of immersion.

As it is still a relatively new technology, it has many points of improvement to achieve the desired immersive experience, such as higher resolutions, lower latency and larger viewing angles. Making it a notable requirement in hardware innovation.

However, to get the most out of the technology, it is recommended to use models of glasses that are usually connected to a laptop or desktop computer so that they are in charge of processing and moving the virtual environment with the best possible image quality. In this section, in recent years, there has been a significant improvement, since the company Oculus VR, acquired by Meta, has been developing viewers with which you can do without a computer. Obtaining an autonomy, flexibility and portability that makes it more accessible to access these virtual worlds with a quality and processing comparable to their versions that depend on a PC.

What is augmented reality?

In most cases, augmented reality or AR uses the camera of a mobile device to enhance reality by adding additional information to the environment. Unlike virtual reality (VR), AR does not block out the physical world and allows the user to interact with the real world and the experience itself. Augmented reality brings the digital world into the real world.

Among the most common examples of AR usage we have Snapchat and Pokémon Go apps. But also any time you think adding additional information about the environment could be useful, it's a potential use case for AR. For example, enabling geolocation information when driving or exploring a new city; providing 3D directions when you want to see what the new kitchen will look like in a space that is not yet under construction; or seeing products in front of you before you order them.

Differences between AR and VR:

  • Virtual reality is an immersive tool meaning you are immersed inside a digitally recreated space.

  • Augmented reality adds digital elements to a real environment, but it is not an immersion, it is an interaction between digital and real.

  • To access virtual reality you need special glasses as a minimum required equipment, to generate a sense of immersion.

  • To access augmented reality you can use various devices such as cell phones, tablets, and also glasses.

  • Augmented reality is more accessible, in terms of development and application.

  • Virtual reality is usually more expensive compared to augmented reality and depends on more equipment because its experiences are more complete.

  • The physical context is irrelevant for VR while for AR it works in relation to the context.

  • The use of VR is temporary for simulation and for the purpose of detachment from reality. While AR can be used continuously, all the time and its use is disruptive.

  • VR allows "face-to-face" and interactive meetings in the metaverse, I am here.

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