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Augmented Reality (AR) VS Virtual Reality (VR)

The two of the terms, i.e. the "virtual reality" and "augmented reality" are widely used terms these days, due to the revival of the popularity of VR headsets. At the same time, the usage of AR apps along with VR games are also contributing to the higher usage of AR and VR devices. The terms AR and VR seem similar, and with the advancement of the technologies, they are now intermingling. But, AR and VR are two separate concepts having separate features and characteristics that easily differentiate them from each other. As the confusion between AR and VR persists in common masses, therefore, we will here elaborate on both these technologies separately to remove this confusion. Let’s start with a brief discussion of Virtual Reality (VR).

AR and VR

Picture 1: VR and AR have some features in common, but a lot more differences (picture credit: Pixabay.com)

What is Virtual reality?

VR provides a clear vision of the picture with HD quality. The VR fully gain control over your vision and gives thinking that you are in a completely new environment. VR headsets are completely opaque and hide the surroundings to provide more focus on the video alone. Examples of VR headsets include HTC Vive, the Oculus Rift, and various other types of headsets. In case, you wear them when they are turned off, you might feel blindfolded.

When the headset is functioning, the lenses refract the LCD/OLED panels present inside. This way, it fully covers the field of vision with anything being displayed. That can be a game or a video etc. This way, you see whatever the headset will show, and the outside world is taken over by the virtual world.

VR headsets that are tethered one including the Rift and PlayStation virtual reality headsets utilize the 6DOF or six degrees of freedom motion tracking. They successfully do so with the help of external cameras or WMRs (outward focusing cameras).

VR headsets can also detect the movement of the user due to six degrees of freedom with the help of external cameras (Rift, Vive, and PS VR) and outward focusing cameras for WMR. The implies that headsets not only find out the direction of your face but also the motion you perform in that direction. This along with the six degrees of freedom motion controllers, allow you to travel in any of the virtual space. This space is not very big as it is no more than a few m2 across. However, it is more attractive than simply standing at a fixed position and keep watching in various locations. This system is not perfect as you must take extra care to disturb any cable that joins the headset to the operating system like the computer. 

person wearing vr

Picture 2: A person wearing the VR headset (picture credit: Pixabay.com

Microsoft gave these VR headsets the name of “Windows Mixed Reality”. Don’t get confused over the term Mixed Reality, as it only means the simple of virtual reality. The only thing they have different from other types of VR sets is that some of the components of the underlying technology are borrowed from the development version of Microsoft HoloLens.

There are two types of VR headsets including the mobile-based headsets and tethered VR headsets. The mobile base headsets are somehow less powerful and effective than the tethered headsets because they rely on smartphone level systems’ processing attached to them. When compared to it, tethered headsets rely on much faster nearby systems. Besides this, smartphone-based systems only provide three degrees of freedom and not 6 DOFs. This implies that they can give information only about the direction and not the position of the body.

Threatened headsets remotes are specially designed for more convince and ease to use. They provide a more immersive experience compared to other types of VR headsets.

What Is Augmented Reality?

VR works for the replacement of vision, while the AR works for the addition of vision. Vision addition of AR headsets and vision replacement of VR is the primary difference between Augmented reality and Virtual reality. AR smart glasses are transparent, allow you to see the surroundings easily, unlike the VR which hides it. This technology provides the facility of free movement and projects the images over the things you watch. The AR version has extended to a smartphone with the help of AR apps and useful for advanced games like Pokémon Go. This game utilizes the camera of the phones to see the surroundings and also gives extra information on the screen.

The uses of AR vary greatly from just the display of data overlay for the time to very complex visuals like holograms suspended in the center of a hall. However, all is not well with AR as it has some disadvantages compared to VR. One of the main differences between Augmented reality and Virtual reality is visual immersion. As VR fully covers the area of vision, AR devices, and apps only provide results on your smartphone's other smart devices’ screens. In the same way, HoloLens only show images in a specific area before your eyes. Therefore, AR is not as immersive as VR is, which is a drawback of the AR. 

Some of the Advantages of AR include:

  • It recognizes the situations well
  • It adds the extra information
  • It recognizes the surroundings
  • It offers live translations
  • It provides facilities of giving reviews

The simpler AR that provides basic information only works well with 3 degrees of freedom. When it comes to advanced AR applications, they need 6 degrees of freedom in some way or other because they are required to track your physical position. This way, the software can keep the consistent locations of the pictures it showcases in 3D space. Due to this, the HoloLens needs a stereoscopic camera and complex pattern recognition to find out its location continuously.

ar assist in reality

Picture 3: AR assists in reality and provides extra information besides what you are already seeing (picture credit: Unsplash.com)

The Pros and Cons of Virtually and Augmented Reality

Virtual reality


  • VR makes the education system more efficient. The learning skills of students are enhanced by using VR.
  • If implemented properly, VR can provide amazing sensory features. With the help of computer based imagery, it can create unlimited graphic worlds and product demos in various ways.
  • VR provides the facility of experimenting with the artificial environments.


  • The pricing range of virtual reality devices is somehow very high for the users. The lowest range of less efficient device "Google cardboard" is 15 dollars. The more efficient device "HTC Vive Pro" is priced up to 1500 dollars.
  • The content produced for one VR platform can work only for that specific platform.
  • The working of VR is not quick for the demos as productions take time.

Augmented reality


  • Useful and beneficial information can be added to the real world scenes by proper implementation of augmented reality.
  • Augmented reality-based tools are very helpful for doctors. Doctors use the AR during surgical treatments for the analysis of patients.
  • Augmented reality applications based on smartphones are very efficient


  • The AR headsets are costlier. The pricing range of AR is following
  • HoloLens range is 3500 dollars
  • Magic leap price is 2295 dollars

After seeing these price ranges, it is very clear that they are very costlier for the common masses.

  • The augmented reality applications are not suitable for everyday assimilation as they are best for specific applications only.

Best Use Case

Virtual Reality

Irrespective of being costly, VR can be used in several applications. For example:

  • Virtual reality can be used for site inspections like a hotel or any other destination.
  • VR Demos are slow in nature but are very useful in representing the products in a very innovative way.
  • 3D room diagramming is very useful to check how a specific room decoration will look like before and after implementing it.

Augmented reality

  • Augmented reality is best for demos as it can enhance the visual features of a product or a picture. These demos can be expressed with the help of tablets or computers easily.
  • The AR is best suited for increasing the grace of various events and gathering. It can be used for product demos and event signage.
  • Using Augmented reality in a video display and including gesture recognition can make the video more engaging which can cater to the attention of more people to any exhibition.


Augmented and virtual reality are two separate things. Virtual reality takes you to some other world by completely hiding the eyes. On the other hand, the augmented reality adds flavor to what you are already seeing. AR smart glasses are transparent, allow you to see the surroundings easily. Despite the similarity in the designs of AR and VR devices, Augmented and Virtual reality achieve two separate things with help of separate ways. VR works by replacing reality and takes you to some other world. While the AR assists in reality and provides additional information besides what you are watching already. They both are very unique technologies and their use is yet to become widespread. These two technologies are expected to alter the way we use computers in the coming years. However, it is earlier to say how much they will succeed in the future.

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