Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

By now most people have heard the term "virtual reality" thrown around a fair bit but there's still a chance that there are some who aren't quite sure exactly what it entails. On the other hand, "augmented reality" is a much newer term and could be classed as a bit of an unknown quantity at the moment.

Both technologies are very much in their infancy at the moment but look set to be a bit part of the future, especially with regards to mobile gaming and other similar experiences, so now seems like a prudent time to explain the difference between the two and a few examples of the two in action.


Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality in its simplest form involves creating immersive computer-generated environments which are convincing enough that the user will react in the same way as they would in real life to the situations that present themselves. While early virtual reality focused more on full body suits and the like, technology has gradually gotten smaller and more portable, with cutting edge headsets such as the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR becoming much better at blocking the outside world and providing more realistic visuals. Virtual reality can also simulate telepresence, which makes it possible for people to be virtually present in remote locations - think being at the top of Mount Everest or surveying Mount Rushmore - exciting, right?



Augmented Reality (AR)

As opposed to virtual reality, which introduces the user to a whole new environment, augmented reality simply seeks to add to our current reality as opposed to changing it, by using computerized information which aids us in the completion of certain tasks. In other words, images and sounds are used to superimpose information on the world that we see already. A good example of this is the AR coloring book developed by Disney Research, where the characters that you're coloring in turn into virtual 3D characters that dance around the screen. 


AR and VR in Action

Perhaps the most prominent recent example of AR at work is in the popular Pokemon:Go, which took the gaming world by storm in the summer of last year. Mobile gaming brought in $38.6bn in revenue during 2016 alone, which represents a 20% increase from 2015 and with the gaming industry looking set to continue growing, the introduction of more AR based games could see the technology really take off in the coming years. After all, part of Pokemon:Go's appeal was down to the unique experience that the game offered users, many of which had never experienced augmented reality in action before. In addition to this, AR has also been proven to be of immense benefit to both doctors and their patients, whether this be when carrying out a check-up or an extremely complex surgical procedure.



The applications of VR keep expanding in 2017. It has been used by the military as an attractive training alternative, allowing users to deal with potentially dangerous situations or expensive equipment without all of the associated risks. What's more, there are studies that show that virtual reality can be very helpful in aiding the treatment of mental illness such as post traumatic stress disorder for the victims of assault or car crashes. Just in case that wasn't enough, the Avegant Glyph headset literally beams a video onto your retina, which is about as close as you can get to seeing something without being right in front of it.


Don't Get Left Behind

As Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg likes to highlight, both AR and VR are set to play a vital role in the way we interact with each other in the future. One thing's for sure, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about such a future and if you're a gamer, you could well be playing a real-life Skyrim simulation in the not too distant future if you fancy battling a dragon or two!

More on Geekweek


Sign in to comment with your TypePad, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Yahoo or OpenID.