With the resurrection of Virtual Reality headsets like Oculus Rift and Augmented Reality apps and games like Pokemon Go, the terms Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are getting a lot of attention. But, whenever the AR vs VR comparison comes up, many end up getting confused!

If you’re wondering whether you can use the two interchangeably, the answer is no. Augmented Reality helps in solidifying the human imagination by placing 3D models in the real world. On the flip side, Virtual Reality is meant to provide an immersive experience, transporting you into a world of imagination and shutting out the real world.

What is VR and How VR works?

ar vs vr - which is better
VR headset

Virtual Reality involves an artificial computer-generated simulation and recreates a real-life situation or environment. The users feel that they are experiencing simulated reality because of simulations in their visions and hearing. They feel they are at someplace else, far away from actual reality.

Virtual Reality headsets generally consist of one or two screens, which are held very close to your face and viewed with the help of lenses.

Headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are entirely opaque. On wearing them, your surroundings get blocked. If you put them on while the gadgets are turned off, you will feel you’re blindfolded. Whereas, if you use the headsets when they’re on, the OLED and LED panels present inside the gadgets are refracted by the lenses and fill your field of vision with whatever is being displayed. A virtual world replaces the real world outside, and you’re taken to whichever place the headset wants you to go.

Virtual Reality basically denotes that by using external devices such as visors, headsets, and goggles; you’re transported to imagined environments where the reality supersedes your surroundings. VR creates and enhances imaginary reality for gaming and entertainment, for video games and 3D movies. It also has the power to enhance real-life environments by creating a simulation of reality, thus enabling people to practice beforehand, for example, flight simulators for pilots.

What is AR And How It Works?

what is ar augmented reality
Pokemon Go uses Augmented Reality

Now that you know one aspect, let’s check about Augmented Reality. AR will either use glasses or pass-through cameras to enable the users to watch the real world around them in real-time. It places virtual 3D models in the real world, which can be viewed from the camera of a smartphone or any other concerned lenses of the device you are using to see AR.

Augmented Reality devices like Microsoft HoloLens enable you to see everything right in front of your eyes, almost as if you’re wearing sunglasses. The technology projects over whatever you look at and is designed for free movement.

The concept of AR extends to AR apps and games. AR technology blends digital components into the real world in such a way that they enhance one another but can also be easily told apart. Augmented reality devices are swiftly coming into the mainstream and are used to pop out 3D emails and display score overlays while telecasting sports matches.

AR vs VR – A Tech Debate You Cannot Afford To Miss!

It would be a sin to consider AR and VR as technologies meant only for entertainment and playing games. The AR vs VR battle hardly makes any sense as they are not competitors; in fact, they complement each other. AR and VR support similar technologies at the core, but the key difference lies in the fact that VR immerses you in a completely different world, whereas AR only overlays virtual elements into reality.

How do VR and AR work together?

It is not always about VR vs AR. The two technologies do not always operate independently. On the contrary, they are often blended to generate a more immersive experience.

For instance, haptic feedback, which is nothing more than sensation and interaction added to interaction with graphics, is considered augmentation. Nonetheless, haptic feedback is commonly used within a VR set to make the experience more lifelike through touch.

Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality: Similarities

As we have already established above, the Augmented reality vs Virtual reality comparison isn’t about one technology being better than the other. Sure, the two concepts have differences, but in some aspects, they also boast similarities.

Technology: 

As already mentioned earlier, AR and VR leverage the same technology. Both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality provide users with an enriching and enhanced experience.

Entertainment:

Both VR and AR are sought-after technologies for entertainment purposes. While they were only a figment of science fiction imagination in the past, now, the users have control over the new artificial worlds which have come to life. Apart from this, deeper layers of interaction are also achievable with the outside world.

Leading tech moguls are coming up with products and apps with new adaptations and improvements that support Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for increasingly savvy users.

Science and Medicine:

VR and AR technologies have great potential to change the landscape of the medical field by making stuff like remote surgeries a possibility. It is already being used for healing and treating psychological conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality: Differences

Now that we have seen the similarities in the AR vs VR comparison let’s move on to the differences between the two technologies.

Purpose:

VR creates its own reality, which is completely generated and driven by the computer. AR, on the other hand, enhances experiences by adding virtual components. What are these digital components? It comprises graphics, digital images, and even sensations which act as a new layer of interaction with the real world.

Delivery Method:

VR is usually delivered to the users through hand-held or head-mounted controllers. People are connected to Virtual Reality through the equipment. The equipment also enables the users to navigate and control their actions in a surrounding that is meant to simulate the real world.

AR, contrastingly, is used in devices such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops. These devices change how the real world, graphics, and digital images interact and intersect.

Limitations:

Virtual Reality takes the viewer out of the real world and puts him/her into a virtual world. It is an all-consuming experience. This fully immersive characteristic of Virtual Reality is also one of its main limitations. Why? Because you are unable to interact with the actual real-life surroundings once you are a part of the simulated reality. This often tends to cause a problem with advertising tactics.

AR, on the contrary, adds layers of elements to the lives of consumers in real-time. The catch is that the users can quickly feel gimmicky if the applications are not relevant to the user or practical enough. Having said that, the future continues to be bright when it comes to developing Augmented Reality technology, the most definitive examples being Microsoft Hololens and Google’s Magic Leap.

Bandwidth:

VR requires a bandwidth of 50 Mbps to function, while AR needs a bandwidth upwards of 100 Mbps to work seamlessly.

Applications of VR

Here are a few examples of applications where Virtual Reality has already established itself, apart from the traditional video game medium.

1. Workplace Communication:

Virtual Reality technology enables you to be at any place in the world without being physically present. Conducting a virtual conference or interviewing a candidate can easily be done across cities and countries. It is a much better option than a phone/video call since you get to interpret the body language of the concerned person.

2. Software developing:

Software engineers use a 2D screen, for example, the ones used in laptops and desktops, to create their source codes. Although this has been effective, it often limits the developers and programmers from using human perception while creating their software.

VR, in that case, would then enable engineers and coders to interact with their programs in a 3D environment. It will hence increase productivity and lower the learning curve.

3. Healthcare: 

VR technology creates a better practice environment for people who are a part of the medical field. It is more useful for the procedures that are performed infrequently. As compared to training via textbooks, it enables you to have a more immersive experience.

Virtual Reality technology also has the capacity to teach medical students apathy. A program designed by Embodied Labs, as the video above shows, allowed young students from the field of medical science to experience being elderly.

Applications of AR

Currently, Augmented Reality is being used for overlaying information on top of real-time situations, holographic meetings, transportation, and remote businesses. Other useful applications include:

1. Gaming

In the gaming industry, the elements are mostly superimposed in real-life environments. It then facilitates the users in interacting with the characters on screen.

2. Navigation

Augmented Reality navigation maps take the map apps a step further. It highlights the areas where you will need to walk and also marks out various points of interest in close proximity to your location.

3. Retail

Consumers are no longer sensitive to traditional advertising methods. With the advent of AR technology into the retail sector, brands can now bring their products to life. Whether online shopping or window shopping in the real world, it enables buyers to engage with them in a different way.

Verdict: AR vs VR

Well, coming to think of it, there is no obvious answer to the AR vs VR question. As we’ve already seen, both the technologies have completely different experiences to offer and are applied in different fields. The future of both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality is going to be different too.

When it comes to Virtual Reality, it is important to note that the immersive nature of the technology requires more commitment from the user. This can also be one of its major drawbacks.

So, when it comes to AR vs VR, we can convincingly say that while VR has the capacity to take you anywhere, AR can bring anything to you. Both technologies are important, and neither will ever win. Will we see the two mediums overlap in the near future? Yes, there is a high probability. They might overlap and also merge completely. The line that delineates the two technologies will eventually start to get blurry when the equipment supporting these get more developed.

Final Thoughts

AR and VR accomplish two very different purposes in two different ways, irrespective of the fact that the designs of their devices might be similar. Virtual Reality will replace your actual reality, taking you somewhere else. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, will add to your existing reality, projecting additional information on top of what you’re already seeing.

Both Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are powerful technologies individually and are changing how we use computers. There’s a lot more for them in the near future. More and more brands and advertisers are using these technologies to attract a significant number of consumers.

Therefore, to interpret the answer for the AR vs VR debate, it can be safely said that Virtual Reality is the best way to travel to a different world. In contrast, Augmented Reality is the best method of bringing things to you.