Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

AR vs. VR: What’s the Difference?

I’m often asked about augmented vs. virtual reality, namely the difference between the two. Let’s try to clear that up here in simple terms. We’ll start with virtual reality.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (or VR) is a complete immersive experience that shuts out the physical world via computer technology. It’s a simulation that can be the same as, or vastly different to, the real world.

Implemented via VR headsets worn by the user or, in some cases, specially engineered rooms with multiple large screens, one can interact with and explore this virtual world created via computer generated 3D models and environments. An example of a VR experience in gaming is Vader Immortal: A Star Wars VR Series developed by ILMxLab, Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment studio.

Commonly used in entertainment (video games and film), VR has applications in other industries as well, including education, medicine, defense, and aerospace.

Augmented Reality

Simply put, augmented reality (AR) integrates computer generated elements into the real world. Think of it as an overlay of 3D generated, virtual elements on top of the existing world as opposed to the cyber-environment created in VR (think Pokémon Go).

Like VR, AR has applications outside of gaming, with a broad list of possibilities ranging from archaeology to astronomy, for instance. Hardware used to implement AR applications ranges from smartphones and tablets to “smartglasses” and more.

Mixed Reality (MR) is essentially a hybrid of AR and VR but that’s for another post. Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term for all of the above.

Developers use game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity to develop AR and VR experiences.

My intent here isn’t to provide a comprehensive breakdown of all things AR and VR; there are plenty of additional resources on the internet for further research. And remember, we’re here for you when you’re ready to implement a new augmented reality or virtual reality project!

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