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Virtual Reality (VR) vs Augmented Reality (AR)

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  • 6 min read

We have all come across games like Pokémon Go, Flight simulators or commercial simulators for employee training. All these games, simulators, displays and many more elements come under the umbrella of virtual and augmented reality.

Virtual reality and Augmented reality have a few similar aspects but are not the same. In this article, we will understand the following topics:

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Virtual Reality (VR)

The concept of Virtual Reality comes from the idea of combining the real and the virtual. Virtual Reality is a computer-generated simulation environment where a person can directly interact with an artificially created 3D environment using gadgets such as goggles, gloves and headphones and even bodysuits that are fitted with sensors. It almost tricks the mind into thinking that you are actually in the scene fighting off an alien or falling off the cliff in the coolest car, or just having a moment amidst butterflies and rainbows.

Originating in the mid-1950s, the term Virtual Reality was coined in 1987. There has been significant growth and development in the technology and software used since then.

While in real life, we use taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing senses to perceive and experience things, VR uses sensors such as vision, touch, hearing and even smell to give the experience.

There are three major categories of VR.

  • Non-immersive
  • Immersive
  • Semi-immersive

The most commonly known application of VR is 3D movies, which use 3D goggles for viewing it. VR also holds a wide application for simulation and training purposes.

VR can be used in health, fashion, business, sports, education, construction, scientific visualisation and many other industries and sectors. VR is also used in the military for flight and battlefield simulation, medic training, virtual boot camp and vehicle simulation.

Head Mount Display

The most commonly used and recognisable component of VR lately is the ‘Head mount display’ or HMD. It has a small display with an optic in front of either one or both eyes. The IMU or Inertial measurement unit of the accelerometer and gyroscope determine and help track the user’s head movement from the headset.

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Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented means to enlarge in size, number or strength; it deals with real-time space. AR tech superimposes text, sounds or videos over the world we see. The aim is to enhance the world we see but with computer-generated inputs.

The term ‘Augmented Reality’ was coined in 1990 originally as a science-fiction and has now evolved to a point where AR is now available on mobile handsets. The basic hardware requirements to be an AR device includes a processor, sensors, display and an input device. Our current generation smartphones have all these components and more. Hence they can be used as an AR device.

Sensors like GPS, RFID, gyroscopes, touch recognition, eye tracking peripherals, accelerometer and compasses make AR much easier and fun to use.

AR holds application in gaming, entertainment, marketing, selling items, training, education, fieldwork and more. It also finds use in the industrial environment as it enables the creation and delivery of anything consumable with instructions by superimposing the digital content on the real work environment.

Pokémon Go is an AR integrated game

AR models have come into wide use in the past few years. The ASOS Virtual Catwalk, Gucci, Toyota vehicle demo, Ikea Place, Modiface on Amazon and even everyone’s favourite the Pokémon GO are all real-time implemented AR examples.

Also read: How to make an AR app with Vuforia and Unity 3D?

Difference between VR and AR

ParameterVirtual RealityAugmented Reality
Environment It is a completely virtual environment. It works and augments a real-world environment.
View This is an artificially created simulation view. This is a live view.
Comparison with realityIt is a fictional world and has nothing to do with the real world. It replaces reality.It does not replace reality but enhances it with superimposed elements like text, sound and videos.
ConnectionIt requires a minimum of 50 Mbps connection.It requires a minimum of 100 Mbps bandwidth.
Devices requiredIt requires VR specific devices like headsets, gloves, bodysuits and more. It does not require any specific headset, gloves or any other AR device. It works even with regular smartphones.
SensorsIt uses sensors such as vision, touch, hearing and even smell. It uses sensors such as GPS, RFID, gyroscopes, touch recognition, eye tracking peripherals, accelerometer and compasses.
View covered It coves a 360° view for the user.It covers only a fixed area, hence does not provide a 360° view.
User involvementThis fully immerses the user into action. This partially immerses the user into action.
Flexibility of usageIt does not give freedom to the user as it is not live, but is a simulated environment.This gives more freedom to the user regarding movement and devices.
Possibilities of appsThe exploration possibilities reduces because of the devices required for implementation. This provides more possibilities for marketers as it does not require any specific devices.
Examples3D movies, Military simulation trainings.Pokémon GO, Snapchat lenses.
Difference between AR and VR

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What’s next?

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have come a long way since their inception, and are continuously evolving. A technology called Mixed Reality (MR) was introduced at the mid-point of AR and VR too.

Recently, another term, ‘XR’, where X can be any letter known as Extended Reality. The future holds more enhancement technologically in VR and AR. Developing MR and XR further could provide even better simulation, gaming, streaming and training outputs.

Also read: 10 Best PSVR Games.

Ishita Maheshwari

A creative nerd, TT player, an avid reader, and an engineering student.

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