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Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality - AR vs. VR Explained 26 September, 2020   


‘Minority Report’ Vs.’ The Matrix’, the two iconic films based on the future version of the world, has altered the realities of the day. Futuristic, yes, but closer than you think! This article will pit the two against each other: Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality.  Let’s find out.

The Technologies

Let’s start with Augmented Reality or AR.  AR uses technology to overlay information, such as sound text or images, on the world as we see it and allows people to interact with the project images.   This would be like the holographic computer screens Cruise controls with a wave of his hand.  


This technology has been around since the ‘80s and ‘90s, with one of the first examples targeting tools used in fighter jets. The computer could analyze pictures of the pilot’s field of view and overlay altitude, distance, and speed.  Some versions could even identify which objects in the field of view were targets.

 Flash forward to 2013 and the rollout of Google’s Glass, AR projected onto the lenses of glasses that overlaid on top of what the wearer was seeing and was controlled using voice commands.


Typically, AR sneaks into your everyday life through tablets and smartphones.  One of the most popular AR apps is StarWalk, which, when pointed at the sky, superimposes the constellations over the real stars and planets. Sometimes they appear as marketing tools, such a 360-degree view of a hotel before you make a registration.   


Holograms, like the ones depicted in Minority Report, are not far off. They take AR a step further, as instead of a single viewer at a time, one hologram can be seen and heard by an entire crowd simultaneously.


Now, let’s compare augmented reality vs. virtual reality.  Virtual Reality (VR) is an environment that is entirely generated by a computer in which you can immerse yourself and interact with the situation the computer created that doesn’t exist.

 In the comparison of AR vs. VR, AR uses what is already there, but virtual reality makes you feel, both mentally and physically, that you are an entirely different place.  The VR worlds that are created must be big enough to allow the user to explore and experience through sight and sound, smell and feel. 

 Take The Matrix, the people live in small pods and are hooked up to feeding machines.  They think they’re living completely different lives where they are free to move about, explore their world, and make decisions about what they experience next.


So, in the augmented reality vs. virtual reality explanation, AR expands – or adds – to your fact; VR creates an entirely new “reality.”

What equipment is needed?

When it comes to equipment in the augmented reality vs. virtual reality duel, augmented reality is relatively simple.  As with Pokémon Go, all you needed was the pervasive smartphone.  As the interactions become complicated, you might need gaming controls to operate in online worlds like Minecraft, or headphones/speakers to hear others who are joining you in that AR environment.


VR, on the other hand, requires a bit more kit.  First, you need a headset covering your eyes and blocks out all aspects of your current environment. These can be connected to a computer, or sometimes a smartphone, running the VR environment. Along with this, you will need headphones and sometimes hand controls and even treadmills, depending on the VR app that you are experiencing.  Nowadays, different varieties of VR headsets are available with many features.

Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality: Pros and Cons

In the ongoing AR vs. VR debate both offer substantial business opportunities. From the AR perspective, along with a promising market, businesses can give customers a first-hand experience with their product.  Take IKEA, by using AR, their customers can see first-hand what furniture would look like in their own home.  No guessing or returns – they can get it right the first time. 


Another example is the travel industry.  Upload an AR app onto your smartphone, and details about the area you’re visiting will show up on your phone wherever you point your camera. No more guidebook or map to lug around.


But in comparing AR vs. VR, the pros are different.  With augmented reality, businesses use AR to enhance their selling experience.  With virtual reality, however, the experience itself is what is being sold.  Whether it’s a trip up Mt. Everest or a classic space game, it’s a fabricated environment that is the draw.


Augmented reality does have an additional advantage in that it can be used to provide instantaneous customer service aspect.  Imagine for a moment that you were just about to sit down and binge on your latest obsession and your cable is down – the horror!

 Calling customer service with an AR app could mean that by letting them taking control of the camera on your phone, the technician could look at your set up and overlay repair instructions on your phone, showing you correctly what to do and where.  Lickety-split, you’re back in business.


But, virtual reality has its own set of benefits.  Without the expense of flights and hotels, time away from your loved ones, you can experience virtually anything you want.  Forget reading about the Sagrada Familia when you’re in Barcelona – you can tour the inside of the church without going anywhere. 

 Or, you can tour it in bits when you have time – can’t make it through the whole building? Pause the tour, have dinner, and come back and finish it before you go to bed.  No lines, no wasted days on layovers. Just the good parts of your vacation.

It also offers an opportunity for experts to learn and practice dangerous activities in a safe way. For example, surgeons doing their first open-heart surgery – who wants to be first in that line?  VR allows them to practice in a realistic environment without the risk of operating on a live person.

The Cons

Weighing the pros of AR vs. VR benefits, both technologies are impressive.  So what’s the catch? Augmented reality can be invasive at times.  Remember, Pokémon Go? A bit awkward when you’re sitting on a bench, and someone comes pointing their smartphone right at you and shouts, “Got ya!”  Since AR builds on the existing environment, you could get unwillingly caught up in someone else’s experience.

When it comes to virtual reality, the absolute nature of the immersion can present a problem.   As within The Matrix, the alternate reality could become more appealing than real life, leading someone to spend more and more time in the virtual world, completely substituting a virtual existence for a real one if taken to an extreme.


And then there’s privacy.  The more data you input into either environment, the better it will be. But where does that information go and how secure is it? If you allow access to your camera as in the customer service example above, how do you make sure they can access ONLY the camera and ONLY at the time, you allow?  Once they have the information needed to provide a worthwhile experience, can they use it to hack into your phone at a later date?

 Google pulled Google Glass in 2015 due to concerns precisely like these.  There was pervasive concern that the wearer could record things without permission.  And, there are plans in the works for AR contact lenses and other wearable devices from other companies, so the privacy issue still looms large.


Finally, when it comes to virtual reality, the cost is still a huge hurdle to clear. As with all technology, there might reach the point when everyone can afford in-home VR machines, but for now, large-scale experiences are only feasible in public gathering spots like malls, movie theaters, and even sports stadiums.



When considering augmented reality vs. virtual reality, it comes down to degrees. If taken to extremes, it can certainly lead to adverse outcomes like social isolation and the accompanying mental health concerns like anxiety and depression. So, all can’t use it.  How can hospitals, for instance, forego the chance to train their surgeons in a risk-free way? If Minority Report is to be believed, they can even prevent crimes.  Powerful technologies, both with positive effects on the future.


technology augmented reality virtual reality AR vs. VR

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