VR vs AR

VR vs AR Comparison (differences explained)

Video game developers have been playing with a user’s sense of reality significantly more over the last few years. Whether it’s transporting users to a completely new environment, or enhancing the environment they’re already in somehow, video games have become much more immersive. The main ways that game developers manipulate reality is through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). In today’s article we’ll compare VR vs AR and discuss key differences between the two.

VR vs AR Comparison Chart

In the chart below, we summarize the main differences between VR vs AR technologies. 

Virtual RealityAugmented Reality
Virtual reality is a completely immersive experience that transports the user to an entirely different setting.Augmented reality combines virtual and realistic elements to create a unique experience for the user.
Virtual reality typically uses a headset and a pair of controllers, and is used in a closed off environment.Augmented reality can be used with a smartphone and touch screen technology, and is used in an open environment.
Virtual reality users are controlled by the system, meaning their actions are limited and they must adhere to them.Augmented reality users are able to control their presence in the real world, and have fewer limitations that they must adhere to.

The following article is a more detailed explanation of the main differences between virtual and augmented reality. It also includes a comparison of user experience and the technology applications and ubiquity both systems have.

The VR Gaming Headset We Recommend

Our favorite all-in one Virtual Reality headset bundle is the Meta Quest 2 (formerly called the Oculus Quest 2).

Battle with friends, enjoy immersive live events, and exercise in exotic locations, all with the Quest 2 from Meta.

Meta Oculus Quest 2

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Main Differences Between VR and AR

The main differences between virtual reality and augmented reality are that:

  • the settings are different,
  • each uses different technology, and
  • how they are controlled is different.

The biggest difference between the two systems is that virtual reality is completely immersive, while augmented reality uses a real world setting to add virtual elements.

Main Differences Between VR and AR

Virtual reality is often completely different from the reality we see in our day to day lives. The system transports the user to a different environment and fully immerses them, so the user is able to get up close and personal with whatever game they are playing.

For example, the popular virtual reality game Beat Saber transports the player to a different setting so that the user can be fully immersed in the music and environment.

With augmented reality, users usually look at the real world through a certain lens that adds virtual elements. For example, the popular mobile game Pokemon Go uses augmented reality to make it seem like the user is catching and interacting with real Pokemon characters.

The experience isn’t fully submersive, but it uses technology to create a different reality experience for the user.

Headset Differences

Since virtual reality is entirely submersive, a full headset is used to create a 360 degree image for the user. Augmented reality usually only uses an iPhone or other handheld device since it only adds a few virtual elements to the larger environment of the real world.

Finally, the controls for both systems are a bit different. Virtual reality users are controlled by the system, meaning they have to adhere to a few limitations that the headset and handheld controllers present.

They aren’t able to go anywhere they want or do what they want in the world. The technology must also be used in a closed off space for safety reasons and to make sure the headset works properly.

Augmented reality grants the user much more freedom, since the user is able to control where they go and what they do in the real world.

The user is able to walk around in an open environment since augmented reality doesn’t require as much technology in order to work properly. 

The only thing the user needs to experience augmented reality is a smart phone and any app that uses augmented reality.

User Experience Compared

User experience refers to how virtual reality and augmented can be used, and the differences in what the person experiences while using them.

Augmented reality is primarily used when the person needs to be present in the real world to some degree.

VR and AR User Experience Compared

The primary reason for this when it comes to games is because the game world is too similar to the real world, and the creators want to save money by avoiding creating that world.

When it comes to user experience, augmented reality can also make the virtual parts feel more realistic when they are placed in the real world. When someone is using virtual reality, they know that the world they are experiencing isn’t real.

While it might feel real to some degree, they can escape the world and come back to reality by taking off the headset or turning off the game.

But with augmented reality, the real and virtual world are experienced together by the user, adding an element of realism that they can’t get with virtual reality.

The name of the game with virtual reality is to totally immerse the user in whatever game world they choose. It’s why the headsets completely cover the user’s eyes, to block out any elements of the real world.

One of these technology types isn’t better than the other for user experience, it mainly depends on what the user themselves wants.

If they want to experience a mix of the real world and the virtual world, then augmented reality is able to cater to that. But if they want to be fully immersed into the virtual world, then virtual reality is able to provide that experience.

Technology Applications Compared

Virtual reality and augmented reality have more applications than in just the gaming world, and that’s important to note in any AR vs VR comparison.

VR and AR Technology Applications Compared

As the technologies are getting more advanced and popular, the professional world is starting to incorporate virtual and augmented reality into solving problems and improving work efficiency.

AR Applications in the Workplace

A few ways that augmented reality is being used in the professional world include remote collaboration and assistance and on the job training

When it comes to remote collaboration and assistance, some companies are no longer using video chat technologies like Skype or Zoom to collaborate with or assist their employees.

Rather, they are using augmented reality to demonstrate and explain tasks they want completed or any questions that need answering.

It’s more effective since employees have a visual to refer to, rather than having to listen to a verbal explanation alone.

For on the job training, companies are using augmented reality to demonstrate how employees are to complete tasks. They often use augmented reality headsets or applications to narrate and demonstrate employee tasks at the same time.

This has helped employees better understand and retain the training information compared to them reading steps on a document.

VR Applications in Business

As for virtual reality, companies are mainly using it for online tours of their facilities and for point of view training for employees.

Companies will use a virtual reality headset to record a tour of their space and upload it to their website for customers to view.

Point of view training includes tasks recorded by other employees for new trainees to watch and follow along with, so they can get hands-on experience and practice completing tasks.

Both technologies have multiple different applications that can be useful outside of the gaming world, it mainly depends on which one the company decides is better for the task they need to complete. 

Technology Ubiquity Compared

Ubiquity refers to how well known and used a type of technology will be years down the line.

In the case of virtual reality vs augmented reality, both of them are considered fairly ubiquitous since both types of technology are appearing more and more each year.

VR and AR Technology Ubiquity Compared

Since virtual reality was created, it has slowly but surely been growing in popularity over the years. It experienced an especially significant surge in popularity in the early 2010s.

Even though virtual reality hasn’t experienced a surge in popularity since then, it’s still remained fairly popular. This is largely due to the number of games that have come out with VR versions for players to experience.

More virtual reality games are still being created. And the professional world is also starting to incorporate virtual reality into their policies and tasks.

As virtual reality starts being used in more creative ways outside of the gaming world, the ubiquity of it will continue to grow.

As far as augmented reality is concerned, the primary way it’s been used is for mobile games. It has a significant amount of ubiquity in the mobile game world, but not as much in the video game world.

That’s not to say it won’t become more popular in the coming years, both in the gaming world and in the working world. But for now, it’s about as ubiquitous and present in the gaming world as virtual reality.

Final Thoughts

In our comparison of VR vs AR we’ve explained that both virtual reality and augmented reality can be useful for different purposes and user experiences. Virtual reality is great for full immersion, while augmented reality is great for mixing reality with the virtual world.

They both also have multiple different applications outside of the gaming world. Today’s businesses are adapting them into their policies more each year. Finally, both technologies are fairly ubiquitous and expected to remain popular in the future.

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