The Difference Between Virtual Reality And Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality uses peripherals like headsets and gloves to create a completely immersive user experience, while augmented reality adds digital images or artifacts to the real world via devices like phones or glasses.

By Charlene Badasie | Published

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Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two very popular forms of technology. However, they are often compared because of their ability to create immersive experiences for users. While they share some similarities, they are fundamentally different in how they work to create unique experiences. The hardware and software required are also largely unrelated.

Virtual reality creates an entirely artificial environment that simulates real-world experiences. A fully immersive experience, it uses computer-generated images, sounds, and other sensory inputs to create an artificial world. Users can interact with this world through specialized hardware like headsets, gloves, or other motion-tracking devices, Tulane University’s School of Professional Advancement says.

The technology also requires a powerful computer with a graphics processing unit (GPU) capable of rendering high-quality images. The headset, which includes a screen and motion sensors, tracks the user’s head movements and adjusts the display accordingly. The motion controllers allow people to interact with the virtual environment while the computer generates other sensory inputs.

This gives users the feeling of being completely immersed in a different world. One of the significant advantages of virtual reality is that it transports people to environments that would otherwise be impossible to access in the real world. Folks can experience the thrill of skydiving or explore an ancient city that no longer exists.

As such, virtual reality is often used in gaming, entertainment, education, and training simulations. Augmented reality enhances our real world by adding digital content like images, sounds, and videos to the user’s surroundings. The technology works by using camera-equipped devices like a smartphone or tablets to detect real-world objects and then add digital information on top of them.

Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality allows folks to view information about landmarks, restaurants, or stores while walking down a street. The technology is often used in mobile apps, advertising, and product visualization. The software uses sensors like GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscopes to detect the user’s location and orientation to superimpose digital information.

While both technologies provide endless possibilities, virtual and augmented reality has several disadvantages that should be considered. The former can result in adverse physical side effects like headaches and neck pain, especially with extended use of VR goggles and devices, Optimum reports. As people become submerged in the virtual world, they risk neglecting their real lives.

Another disadvantage of virtual reality is the price. Headset pricing ranges from about $15 to $1,500, making it impractical for everyday use, Panono reports. Augmented reality also has limitations as the projected information is often confined to the small screen of a mobile device. While AR headsets are available, they also have a limited field of view which can be problematic.

According to Aircada, the apps that overlay real-world visual, auditory, or sensory experiences can be infiltrated by malicious programs that create a different location or circumstance from the one a user is actually in. As such, while virtual and augmented reality are incredible, they do have a few downsides. But understanding their differences can help people use the technology wisely.