One of the biggest confusions in the virtual space today is the distinction between Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR). Both are getting tremendous attention from the media and both are showing great growth possibilities. But is the difference between them? Let’s find out.
Virtual reality is the creation of artificial, computer-generated simulation of real life and environment, or of non-existing realities and situations. Virtual reality’s main goal is creating an artificial world that the users can interact with. Users experience simulated reality firsthand, and it is designed in such a way that they find it difficult to difference what’s real and what isn’t. VR works by stimulating mainly the visual and the audio perception and it usually involves wearing a special helmet or goggles. It can be used for two purposes:
- Creating a special environment for gaming and entertainment
- Creating simulations of reality in order to enhance training for real life, by allowing people to experience a certain type of environment or situation, before actually having to face it
Augmented reality on the other hand, is the layering of computer-generated enhancements onto a real life support, with the purpose of making reality more attractive or meaningful. Using AR, users are able to interact with digital contents, while still being in contact with the real world, thus they are able to distinguish between the two. Augmented reality can be used to make characters of a print book move, to pop up 3D emails and photos on mobile devices, or to display a short-introduction of your business by scanning your business card.
Yes, they both involve adding a non-existing digital compound, but the difference resides mainly in the perception of our presence. With virtual reality, we are completely transposed into another universe. The goggles and the headsets separate us from the real world and force to exist somewhere else. With augmented reality, we simply add elements to the existing reality. We are not separated from it, we enhance it. So, AR does not move us to another place, it just makes our current place more complex. Moreover, with VR, it’s difficult to discern what’s real and what’s not, whilst with AR it’s bluntly clear which is the real support and which is the digital overlay.
Due to its balanced blending of real and digital, Augmented reality has found more practical uses in publishing, advertising and personal use, while Virtual reality remains an entertainment and gaming option.