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Contrasting Altered Realities: Virtual vs. Augmented

The world is rapidly changing because of research and innovations, especially in the new and growing field of altered realities.

This is dominated by two main technologies: virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). You might recognize these names as they are becoming more common, but do you know all the differences between the two?

As pioneers in the virtual world, we at VictoryXR would like to clear up any confusion around these very different types of platforms.

Defining the Technology

VR is a wholly simulated reality that one can immerse themselves in, completely different from our own. This can be done in two major ways: developing a computer-simulated reality, or recreating a “real life” environment.

Computer-simulations often aim to create impossible environments for individuals, like floating through space or seeing dinosaurs. They are a computer generation of what it would be like under these otherwise impossible conditions. On the other hand, VR can also be used for the recreation of real life scenarios. VR can take you to places you wouldn’t normally be able to go, like on a tour to a far away factory or museum, or even to another country.

Regardless of if it’s a simulation or recreation, VR uses visual and hearing stimulation to take you to another world. To another reality. In a recreation, this is done using cameras to film the environment. In a computer generation, VR utilizes VRML code (Virtual Reality Modeling Language) to build a new world.

You can not only be transported to another reality, but interact with it as well. Along with VR headsets, sensors and controllers are available so that an individuals can be a part of their virtual world.

In contrast, AR doesn’t take you to a new world – it uses 3D and digital overlays that you can interact with, to change the world we live in.

While AR allows customers to interact with virtual content through the real world, it’s biggest draw is that they are still able to distinguish between the two.

For the most part AR has been developed for use on mobile devices through apps. Although there have been some attempts to create an AR headset for convenient continued use, in the end the products had field of vision problems and outrageously high costs that made it unsuitable for most consumers.

Comparing VR to AR

Virtual reality and augmented reality, although similar on the surface, are inverses of each other in what they are aiming to accomplish. VR is attempting to give customers an experience completely outside of their regular life, while AR is attempting to give their real life virtual aspects.

Both formats do use some similar technologies, and give people experiences that would otherwise be out of reach. However, consumers should be careful not to mix up the two.

While VR is limited in when it can be used, because it practically takes you out of the world around you, the depth of it’s application is much deeper. VR is far more immersive.

AR is limited by the physical world, and it’s content is dependent on the consumer’s actions therein. You can get videos or animations to explain products or give you information, but you could never use AR to go somewhere otherwise inaccessible.

As we previously mentioned, they also differ on the delivery method. VR, for the most part, requires a headset – like the Oculus Rift – as a medium along with sensors and controllers. On the other hand, AR is limited in their devices.

The cost of the hardware to run VR can range from $800 to as little as $15 with tools like Google Cardboard that can use the customer’s cell phone to open the door to the virtual world. In comparison, popular AR headsets that have been developed, like Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens, were priced in the thousands.

This price difference has resulted in most practical AR applications being limited to mobile devices being used as a medium, with no way of convenient long-term continuous use in daily life.

Looking to the Future

The big question everyone seems to be asking is: “Which of these is the future?”

In short, we believe that both have a wide range of applications and can fit into the modern world. The immersive ability and versatility of VR makes it great for learning environments, promotional videos, and entertainment. At the same time, the mobility of AR and convenience of not leaving the real world, in some circumstances, is certainly a plus.

On which will be used, that depends on the needs of the individual. We believe that VR holds the edge in scenarios where immersiveness is a plus, or cost is a factor.

Not being tied to where you are in the real world opens up the door to so many possibilities. The virtual world is one where we can make the impossible possible.

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