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    Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality: What’s the Difference?

    Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality: What’s the Difference?

    Il'ya Dudkin


    8 min read

    AR vs VR

    Both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) software have been around for quite some time now, it was only recently that they were able to gather the attention that they deserve. Virtual reality is becoming increasingly popular right now and the advancements in hardware have been exciting to watch. In just a short amount of time, content creators have made astounding advancements in storytelling thanks to this technology. Movie studios, brands, news organizations and gaming companies are all exploring this tool to tell their stories. Having said this, there are differences between VR and AR each presenting a wide range of possibilities. Let’s take a look at some of the differences.

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    Content is King for Virtual Reality

    VR is a medium that guarantees that the user will be focused on content. There is no looking away, checking e-mail or any other distractions. It is really the best way to tell a story because the listener is completely immersed in the story since what happens inside the headset makes you feel something inside your head, heart, and gut.

    For example, The New York Times was one of the first companies to harness the power of VR by distributing Google Cardboards to its digital subscribers. YouTube and Facebook have also followed suit by enabling VR online via digital video players.

    However, the strength of virtual reality is also perhaps its greatest weakness. Due to its immersive nature, it prevents users from interacting with surroundings. Users are no longer “in the moment” meaning that they can walk and see what is directly next to them but only in the virtual world. In the real world, they cannot look somebody in the eye or read their body language or anything else. It is a powerful content experience, but it is not useful for interacting with the world.

    This is the global problem for VR. Even though the content is king and providing users with an immersive experience as a key part of advertising, VR will not become an inseparable part of our daily lives. The real goal of advertisers is not to interrupt our experience and tasks, but to enrich them on the behalf of the brand. Even though VR has revolutionized the way we watch content, it will not be a technology to which we will turn to in our daily lives in the future.

    AR for healthcare

    The Real World is What’s Important for Augmented Reality

    Augmented reality provides additional contextual information layers to our experience in real-time. This future has been foretold by movies such as Avatar, Iron Man, Minority report, Wall-E and many others. What’s most important for AR is real-time experiences. You can overlay computer graphics onto the real world and connect with them simultaneously.

    AR doesn’t quite remove you from your surrounding like VR does, it allows you to look around while putting objects and data in place around you to interact with. A good example of this is Pokemon Go, or your favorite Snapchat filters. When you put dog ears on your head after taking a selfie is not some kind of camera trick, but the first stage of AR in mainstream consumer hands.

    augmented reality maps

    Future of VR and AR

    The future of AR will undoubtedly include everything from the silly face filters mentioned above to training programs for NASA to test and model various technologies and training simulations. Since AR deals with the real world, you will start seeing it integrated into your daily life more and more over the coming years. VR is currently viewed as having a higher entertainment value while AR is looked as a more functionality tool.

    Perhaps, in the future, VR will be an at-home treat since it requires equipment such as goggles or a helmet and AR will more of a social, everyday experience that does not distract you from smartphone alerts, walking down the street or playing with your kids. While VR currently is and will always be more immersive, AR will provide users with more freedom.

    Augmented reality landscape

    Similarities Between the Two

    Even though we just studied the differences between AR and VR it is important to acknowledge the similarities as well. They both leverage the same technologies and they were both created to enhance and enrich the user experience. In terms of entertainment, they both providing experiences that users are now expecting instead of being merely a figment of sci-fi imagination. New artificial worlds are coming to life for the user to control, and they both enable a deeper layer of interaction with the real world. This is leading to more investments in developing new improvements and adaptations for new apps and release them to savvy users.

    Both AR and VR are used for scientific and medical purposes as well. They have great potential to change the landscape of the medical field by enabling new treatments for psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and they are both enhancing remote surgery.

    In fact, many times both AR and VR are blended to provide even more immersion for the user. For example, haptic feedback is considered an augmentation since it is a vibration added to interact with graphics, but it is more commonly used with virtual reality in order to make the experience more life-like.

    Both VR and AR are great tools for providing experiences and interactions driven by the desire to immerse oneself in a simulated world for play and entertainment. It adds an extra layer of interaction between digital devices and the real world. Whether alone or mixed together, they are definitely unlocking new worlds: both real and virtual.

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