Tommy Roberts

The Differences Between Virtual and Augmented Reality

AR, Immersive Experiences, Innovation, Technology Trends, VR

The Differences Between Virtual and Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) creates an immersive computer-generated world that immerses its users, masking out their real surroundings. Most often used through VR headsets connected to console or PC systems.

Augmented Reality (AR) uses digital information to accentuate real-world objects. Typically used on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets or specialist AR headsets like Microsoft HoloLens2, AR is often described as marker-based AR, where recognition algorithms map an environment before overlaying digital content based on these mappings.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive technology designed to give the illusion of being physically present in an environment. This is achieved using a headset which places a display within inches of your eyes, distorting its three-dimensionality with stereoscopic lenses and using motion trackers that detect your real-world movements and adjust in-game visuals accordingly, creating an experience more lifelike than Augmented Reality which overlays digital information over reality through headset or camera views.

VR technology is being applied in numerous applications today, from education to entertainment. Some individuals utilize it for meditation purposes in a relaxed virtual environment that removes all external stimuli and blocks out reality; research into VR meditation has demonstrated its ability to reduce stress levels and enhance health outcomes when compared with more traditional meditative practices.

VR can also be used for simulation training, where users can practice tasks without risking injury. Athletes can benefit by replaying and analyzing video-based performances in an immersive environment – making VR an efficient method for skill acquisition with increased retention over traditional learning methods.

VR has also been utilized by artists like Marina Abramovic, Laurie Anderson and Anish Kapoor as an innovative way of engaging their audiences. Through VR they have created new and surreal environments from their imaginations that were not possible before.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is an immersive technology that superimposes virtual data onto real-world environments in real time, such as an NFL game in 1998 that used an AR device to animate the yellow downline on the football field to show viewers how far players needed to travel to score touchdowns.

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AR applications have grown tremendously since 2010, thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices. When users point a smartphone camera at objects or environments, an AR system displays live-streamed information such as navigation instructions, 3D model animations or repair instructions on their phone’s screen – such as navigation directions or repair guidelines. AR has even become an entertaining form of technology thanks to Pokemon Go breaking multiple Guinness world records during its inaugural month in existence!

Software that makes AR work includes image registration, which maps out real life to determine where objects end and start, what is in focus and what is not, helping the system “know” where to place digital overlays relative to physical objects seen on screen.

AR is comprised of various key elements. Content management refers to maintaining a database of 3D models and other information, while interface is the means by which users interact with an AR system – from tapping a smartphone screen for text translation via voice to using your camera lens to identify stars on its own – these interactions allow AR systems to adapt as the needs of its users change.

Mixed Reality

MR connects the real and digital worlds, enabling users to interact with both simultaneously. It does this using cutting-edge advances in computer vision, graphics processing, displays and input systems as well as robust cloud computing; as a result it has quickly gained ground across numerous real-world applications.

Augmented reality (AR) contrasts the immersive experience of virtual reality (VR), which tricks your senses into believing you’re somewhere else, by layering additional perception on top. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets use AR apps that superimpose computer images onto physical objects and surroundings in reality.

AR is available in a range of forms, from physical objects with markers to markerless technologies that use cameras, sensors and GPS to detect key aspects of your environment. Automotive HUDs or heads-up displays project speed and direction directly on to your windshield for example.

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AR and MR technologies can be leveraged for training, customer engagement, remote work, and product promotion – enabling people from around the globe to collaborate as if they were all in one room. Medical professionals, for example, can utilize MR to follow visual demonstrations of care steps without needing an instructor, factory employees can complete upskilling programs without leaving their workplace, while retailers use AR/MR to showcase products instantaneously to customers without waiting for shipping or manufacturing processes – among many other uses!


Augmented reality (AR) uses virtual simulations over real world environments to enhance or add to them, including Ikea Place which enables users to point their phones at rooms they own and visualize furniture placement, and YouCam Makeup which enables customers to virtually try on makeup. Furthermore, AR can aid with repairs and maintenance such as when BMW and Jaguar use VR design reviews prior to production of vehicles.

AR is unlike VR in that it does not rely solely on headsets to deliver digital content; instead, smartphones or tablets can be used as display screens to show digital media. Marker-based AR employs camera footage of specific objects or features and then superimposes digital augmentation over them; such is how Pokemon GO* operates. Markerless AR uses GPS, accelerometers, cameras and compasses to determine where content should be displayed without special markers being necessary.

Businesses are using both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to support employee work, from training new hires to increasing efficiency and safety on the field. When pandemic hit, hospitals used Microsoft HoloLens headsets as support during patient treatment of Covid patients by providing frontline staff the option of consulting specialists without leaving their work area or donning personal protective equipment (PPE).

AR is being employed in manufacturing to streamline quality control and shorten time to market, while creating interactive marketing campaigns such as product demonstrations or scavenger hunts.

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