_Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality: A Crash Course

Recently, there has been a lot of debate about how augmented reality (AR) differs from virtual reality (VR). Both technologies frequently set the media ablaze with headlines suggesting that VR/AR will be the major drivers of technology innovation in the years to come. Statistics have some interesting facts to back up the rapid evolution of immersive tech market: worldwide spending on building VR and AR experiences is expected to surpass $20 billion in 2019!

According to IDC, the combined share of the total spending on VR/AR solutions will grow from 64.5% in 2019 to more than 80% in 2022, with the following industries leading the way: personal and consumer services ($1.6 billion in expected revenue from building and implementing VR/AR/XR), retail ($1.56 billion), and discrete manufacturing ($1.54 billion).

Geography-wise, the United States is expected to invest the most in AR/VR solutions in 2019 – $6.6 billion, followed by China ($6 billion), Janan ($1.76 billion), and the EU ($1.74 billion).

These are indicators that VR/AR industry is getting mature and providing ample opportunities for businesses regardless of industry and company size.

Are you thinking about jumping on VR/AR bandwagon? Let’s figure out the differences and similarities first, and then explore how different business domains can benefit from each.

What is virtual reality?

The American computer artist Myron Krueger first introduced the concept of virtual reality in the late 1960s.

Myron Krueger’s interactive VideoSpace experience

Virtual reality (VR) is a computer simulation of reality or the reproduction of a situation. Technically, it reproduces the world (objects and subjects), which is transmitted to the user through their senses, such as vision, hearing, smell, touch, etc. VR imitates both impact and reactions to that impact.

As a rule, “immersion” in the virtual reality space is achieved with gadgets such as VR headsets.

The main goals of VR are as follows:

  • Create and improve the imaginary reality of games, entertainment, video, 3D movies, etc,
  • Improve the quality of our everyday life, such as preparing for a certain event, creating a simulated environment where people can practice particular skills (for example, an airplane simulator for pilots), getting firsthand experience with something (e.g., virtual fitting rooms, virtual tours), etc.

From a technology perspective, there are two main types of VR: Mobile VR and room-scale VR:

Mobile VR

    • Mobile VR is a virtual reality technology that’s explicitly tailored to the smartphone or other portable devices. The minimum set for the use of Mobile VR is, in fact, a smartphone, as well as inexpensive cardboard glasses such as Google Cardboard. A significant advantage of this technology is affordability: almost everyone has a smartphone today, and cardboard can be bought for just a few bucks. Yet, insufficient performance of the graphics card is a big disadvantage, as you can’t implement any complex VR project due to this limitation. Also, in the case of mobile VR, there are problems with tracking: the smartphone has no external sensors that could normally track the position of the head and body in space. But manufacturers of mobile devices are working on it.

Room-scale VR

    • At the other pole of VR technology, there is room-scale VR. You come to the office or, for example, to the company’s booth at some exhibition, where you are given a virtual reality helmet connected to a console or computer. Room-scale VR allows you to “shove” much more complex 3D objects into virtual reality.

What is augmented reality?

The term “augmented reality” was proposed by Boeing’s aerospace researcher Tom Codell in 1990.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer-simulated layers on existing reality. The main goal is to make the reality more expressive, versatile, and vivid. Augmented reality is used extensively in mobile apps.

The first AR applications were native apps for smartphones based on the principle of adding information to the image from the camera. A well-known example is Niantic’s Pokémon Go, which was released in 2016 and became a worldwide hit among gamers of all ages.

A huge contribution to the development of augmented reality technologies was made by the Google Tango project, which develops hardware and software for smartphones. Tango-enabled smartphones are equipped with additional sensors (IR transmitter, infrared camera, GPS, compass, gyroscope, and camera) to collect and process data on the exact position of the surrounding objects relative to each other.

The most famous examples of AR are the parallel front color line, which shows the location of the closest field player to the gate when televising football matches, arrows indicating the distance from the place of a penalty kick to the gate, the “drawn” trajectory of the puck flight during a hockey match, etc.

AR vs VR

Augmented reality and virtual reality are the opposite of what each technology seeks to provide to the user. Virtual reality offers a digital representation of the real world, while augmented reality provides virtual elements in the form of layers overlapping the real world.

The similarity between virtual reality and augmented reality: Tech & Entertainment


    • Augmented and virtual realities employ the same types of technology, and each exists to serve the benefit of users to enrich and improve their life experiences.
    • Both technologies can diversify users’ leisure time, making it brighter and more fun. Not long ago, these technologies seemed to be a sci-fi gimmick. But now new artificial worlds come to life and are revealed to users who can control them. It also becomes possible to achieve a deeper interaction with the real world. Leading technology houses such as Samsung, Google, and Microsoft are developing new adaptations, product, and application enhancements that support augmented and virtual reality technologies.

Differences between virtual reality and augmented reality: Goal & Transmission mode


    • Augmented reality enhances our experiences by adding virtual components (such as digital images, graphics or feelings) as a new layer of interaction with the real world. In contrast, virtual reality creates its own reality, which is fully generated and controlled by the computer.

Transmission mode

    • Virtual reality is usually delivered to the user via a helmet or remotely. These gadgets connect a person to the virtual reality space, allowing you to control and manage your actions in the virtual world. Augmented reality is increasingly used in mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones, and tablets and helps change the look and feel of the real world. This is the interaction between digital images and graphics.

Mixed Reality

Unlike virtual and augmented reality, mixed reality (MR) is the next level and a compromise between the first two. MR puts digitally created objects into the real world. Wikipedia defines it as ” the result of combining real and virtual worlds to create new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects coexist and interact in real-time.”

The most famous MR device is Microsoft HoloLens. It can scan a room and perceive the surrounding space to blend digital objects in the existing environment accurately.

Microsoft’s MR HoloLense

You can perceive MR as an advanced AR subcategory that integrates 3D elements more smoothly and seamlessly. VR, AR, and MR are usually referred to as one general concept, because they all enable us to immerse in a digital simulation of reality.

Industries that can benefit most from VR and AR

Having analyzed the prospects of VR as a business-driving technology, Accenture forecasts that by 2020, the market for VR devices and software will reach $70 billion. Besides, about 22.8 million AR glasses are expected to be shipped by 2020 worldwide, according to MordorIntelligence. The user base for AR technologies is also anticipated to surpass 1 billion by 2020.

All industries will be able to benefit from the implementation of AR and VR-based solutions, namely:

As seen from the above table, nearly each business domain can have relevant VR/AR use cases, so, in essence, it’s a very all-embracing technology.

And the prize goes to…

So if we had to choose the winner between VR and AR, we wouldn’t likely be able to define one, as both are gaining traction equally.

However, to make sure you make the right investment in the right immersive technology from the very beginning, we recommend that you hire a professional custom VR/AR software development company like Bytecraft. Our consultants will evaluate your needs, define bottlenecks and limitations and come up with an action plan and budget to ensure you jump on the right technology train and provide your end-users exactly with what they’re looking for in terms of immersive experiences.

Final Thoughts

Virtual and augmented reality technologies allow brands and advertisers to attract the attention of consumers in the most extraordinary ways. Thanks to the immersion in virtual worlds, users can experience incredibly strong emotions – much more vibrant than viewing traditional advertising.

If you present these emotions to your audience, you will be able to strengthen your relationship with them and increase your brand awareness. Therefore, both companies and customers will benefit from the creation of high-quality VR-content and its competent use for marketing purposes.

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