With recent tech developments, it’s common to get involved in heated augmented reality vs. virtual reality debates with peers. After all, both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have made significant strides in recent years. And you’ll often come across those that have picked their favorite between the two.
But is one truly better than the other, or is media hype affecting our opinions? The hard truth is that neither technology is better than the other. And while they may seem similar on the surface, they have entirely different use cases.
A user that puts on a pair of AR glasses has completely different needs and expectations than someone that dons VR goggles. Even the technologies themselves have specific features and limitations that set them apart. The keen observer will discover many benefits of augmented reality, which are missing in virtual reality. On the flip side, an avid gamer may become one of the VR faithful due to the abundance of virtual reality games.
Therefore, we decided to point out the most significant differences between augmented reality vs. virtual reality in this handy guide. Here, you’ll learn what each technology brings to the table and where and when you should choose one over the other.
Augmented Reality Vs. Virtual Reality: A Brief History Lesson
The first known example of augmented reality dates back to 1957. Morton Heilig — a cinematographer — created the Sensorama, capable of delivering visuals, sounds, smells, and even vibrations. Computers were very bulky and expensive during that period, so the Senosrama didn’t use them at all. Instead, it offered viewers a rudimentary analog experience.
But over the next few decades, this type of technology evolved considerably. In 1975, the American computer scientist; Myron Krueger created the first interface that allowed users to interact with virtual objects in real-time. And in 1980, the Canadian engineer and transhumanist; Steve Mann invented wearable computing devices, such as the EyeTap Digital Eye Glass, Smartwatch, and the Sequential Wave Imprinting Machine (SWIM).
In contrast, the first example of virtual reality dates back to the early part of the 1800s. And that’s not surprising, as this was a period when photography was gaining traction. Inventions such as the stereoscope, which used twin mirrors to create a single image, captured peoples’ imaginations back in 1838.
Then, the stereoscope was developed further and became the View-Master. It was patented in 1939 and became a popular kid’s toy due to how well it displayed 3D images.
And in the mid-1980s, former Atari employee and VPL Research founder; Jaron Lanier coined the term “virtual reality”. His company was also the first to sell VR goggles and the accompanying wired gloves.
However, Virtuality Group was the first company to bring VR to the masses in 1991. They produced various products like the Virtuality 1000 series, powered by an Amiga 3000 computer and capable of delivering virtual reality games. These Virtuality machines made their way to arcades, expos, techno raves, and shopping malls during the ‘90s.
Which Companies Are Involved In AR & VR?
Several big players, startups, and studios understand the benefits of augmented reality and are actively involved in bringing forth AR experiences and technologies. These include Apple, Facebook, Gravity Jack, Groove Jones, Google, Microsoft, Next/Now, Niantic, and VironIT, to name a few. And many of the same entities are also involved in VR.
But it’s not out of the ordinary for studios to offer AR, VR, and even mobile app development services, similarly to NS804. And that makes sense since development methodologies, technologies, and skill sets overlap comfortably on both AR & VR projects.
And then, there’s Valve Corporation, the famous game developer and owner of the PC digital megastore — Steam. For a while, Valve seemed to focus more on the VR side of things with their Valve Index headset, even though it’s more than capable of doubling up as an AR system. But in 2021, a Valve patent revealed that the company plans to bring a unique AR technology to PC gamers.
What Are The Differences Between AR And VR Headsets?
One of the benefits of augmented reality is that users don’t need to wear headsets for specific applications. Many popular mobile apps and games utilize the phone camera to display the outside world to viewers — but with a twist! Instead of the same mundane world that users see in real life, they see a more colorful and imaginative world on their phones.
AR development studios utilize striking user interfaces (UIs) and graphics, which they overlay on the imagery feeding through the camera. Now, users can interact with the onscreen UI and graphical assets, enjoying unique experiences that were not possible before the advent of AR.
Of course, some users may prefer to wear AR glasses, as these enhance immersion. But their view is not obstructed like would happen if they were wearing VR goggles.
And on the subject of VR goggles, they’re essential for enjoying any virtual reality experience. The user is closed off from the surrounding environment and has no view of the outside world. For some, this may seem like a scary, claustrophobic, or even downright anti-social technology.
But it’s worth overcoming these concerns and fears, as nothing matches the immersion that VR offers. Furthermore, the design choices of modern VR goggles account for the comfort, health, and safety of users.
In a nutshell, AR glasses or headsets closely resemble ordinary reading glasses. And VR goggles still retain some bulkiness and wiring, mainstays from yesteryear’s Virtuality headsets. But as VR technology evolves and matures, we can expect headsets to get lighter and smaller in size.
What Do Users Expect From AR And VR Experiences?
AR users feel more comfortable interacting with the outside world. Moreover, they’re avid smartphone users and utilize a variety of helpful apps for their daily tasks. So, an AR user that travels regularly will use an app such as World Around Me to pinpoint landmarks and tourist attractions.
Another way such a user would utilize an AR app is when deciding on future purchases. For example, they may use the IKEA Place app to see what a true-to-scale wall unit from IKEA looks like in their apartment. And with more clothing brands releasing AR apps, it’s a convenient way to try out those nice pair of jeans without having to go near a changing room.
Alternatively, VR users feel more comfortable with bleeding-edge technology. These users crave the VR experiences promised by cyberpunk movies, novels, and video games over the past four decades. They want to feel like one of the protagonists in a William Gibson novel or Neo from the Matrix films.
Many VR users also own powerful custom-built PCs to run the latest and most graphically demanding virtual reality games. They’re the epitome of the power user that always stays ahead of the curve.
However, VR does not only benefit gaming. It also plays a role in architecture and design, medical training, military training, and real estate tours, as just a few noteworthy examples. So, VR brings forth several tangible real-world solutions to any market or discipline that requires a powerful simulation tool.
Hopefully, we’ve addressed the most crucial augmented reality vs. virtual reality differences and arguments. Both AR and VR are continuously evolving, and we’ve yet to see their true potential.
In the case of AR, it’s the more approachable technology since there’s no need to purchase an expensive headset, and it doesn’t shut off the user from the outside world. But VR is the more bleeding-edge and immersive technology and ideal for gaming and simulations.
But one thing’s for sure, the tech industry’s big players and forward-thinking studios are heavily involved in both AR & VR.
Contact NS804 to learn how we’ll help you create phenomenal AR & VR apps that will amaze your users. We have offices in Charlotte, NC, Richmond, VA, and Denver, CO to assist you in building the app you need.