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Short Tutorial/FAQ – What's The Difference Between Virtual And Augmented Reality?

Question: I've been hearing a lot about augmented reality and virtual reality lately, and I'd like to know more. My first question is, what's the difference between the two?

Download Graphics to View Answer: While virtual reality (VR) seeks to create an alternate reality, augmented reality (AR) seeks to enhance a reality that's already there. Examples of VR environments include games, movies, trainings, and simulations. Pilots can learn to fly by using a VR environment representing a plane.

With AR, users can easily distinguish between real and augmented elements. Examples of AR applications include score overlays on telecasted sports games, or pop-out messages on mobile devices. Someone working on their car could consult an AR diagram of the car's engine with an overlay of labeled parts. A similar process can be used for online food preparation videos enhanced with a written list of ingredients or cooking instructions.

With VR, the idea is for the user to be totally immersed in the virtual world. Equipment needed for VR applications usually includes a headset, as with the Oculus Rift, and handset or hand-held controller. VR is used in such gaming applications as Second Life and such social media applications as PlayStation Home.

AR, by contrast, is typically programmed into apps used on a mobile device. The VR experience includes visual, audio, and haptic (touch) elements, while AR is generally limited to visual input.

So far, AR has been more successful in the consumer market with products like Google Glass. Because VR is still in the very early stages of development, it might be awhile before it overtakes AR.

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