What is Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality?

July 21, 2021

What’s the difference between using Spatial in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)? Our AR vs VR guide tells you everything you need to know.

You’ve probably heard the terms virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). You may even know that both are cutting-edge emerging technologies that let you see 3D objects. These technologies are commonly referred to together as XR. Sometimes people throw in additional acronyms like MR (mixed reality), we don’t, we are going to keep it simple. 

Spatial supports a wide variety of AR and VR headsets, we know it can get overwhelming.

Knowing which one is which, however, can help greatly as you sort out which is best for you. What is virtual reality vs augmented reality? How are they different? And is one better than the other? 

Let’s find out. 

What is Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality?

At its most fundamental level, the AR vs VR difference is this: 

  • Augmented reality (AR) holograms are those that appear to modify the actual, real world
  • Virtual reality (VR) images are those that appear to immerse you in an entirely computer-generated world 

If those definitions still seem a tad vague, don’t worry. We’ll unpack them more as we dive in. 

Augmented reality (AR) definition and examples: 

Spatial's mobile app in AR mode

Augmented reality uses the real world as a starting point, then mixes in some computer-generated additions. 

The hit mobile game Pokemon Go is an ideal example of mobile AR. Pokemon Go displays your actual surroundings (your bedroom, the park, the Grand Canyon … wherever) on your phone’s screen with your camera—but it augments that scene by inserting digitally-rendered creatures for you to catch.

Make sense? It’s the real world, but with something extra added. An augmented reality. 

Want more examples? No problem. Augmented reality is everywhere

  • The bright yellow “first down” line overlaid onto the field during NFL football broadcasts
  • Snapchat filters that can give you kitty ears, fancy sunglasses, or a rainbow-spewing unicorn head
  • Astronomy apps that draw constellations onscreen as you point your phone at the stars
  • Shopping apps that enable you to “preview” a new couch in your home

Clearly, AR is incredibly versatile. You can use Spatial’s mobile app in AR mode on both iOS and Android which is incredible, but mobile AR is not very immersive, you are still only able to see these holograms through the rectangle of your phone. 

Example of AR headset: HoloLens 2

The AR headsets that Spatial supports include the Microsoft HoloLens and Nreal. These are two very different devices but you can tell they are augmented reality not virtual reality because you can see the real world through the lenses. Since you wear them as glasses you have a hands free experience that has a wider field of view. You can use hand tracking to interact with virtual objects. What is nice with augmented reality is that you can still see your surroundings, including people who may physically be there with you. Depending on your use case or work situation that could be incredibly helpful. 

Virtual reality (VR) definition and examples: 

Example of VR Headset: Oculus Quest 2

While AR adds extra touches to the existing world, virtual reality (VR) tricks your senses into thinking you’ve entered a whole new one. 

VR works its magic through a VR headset that completely blocks your view of the real world and replaces it with … just about anything you can imagine. 

It’s a big difference. Whereas AR can place a virtual object in your world, VR can recreate an entire safari environment and drop you into it, with the sights and sounds of the jungle everywhere you look. This enables it to deliver awe-inspiring educational experiences, powerful business tools, and amazing videogames. 

For example: 

So which is better? 

Neither? Both? There is no AR vs VR battle because they excel at different things. 

However, AR and VR do have one trait in common: They both have the potential to improve & enrich our lives in ways we can’t yet even imagine. This technology has the potential to change how we interact with the world and others. 

In other words, when it comes to virtual reality vs augmented reality? Everybody wins.

Want to talk about which may be right for your team and why? We would be happy to consult you before you decide which way to go! 

If you think virtual reality or augmented reality sounds like the right choice for your team’s workspace or virtual art exhibition, talk to us today!

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