Virtual and augmented reality are often considered among the most cutting edge in consumer tech, but while they’re often considered similar, there are some major differences between the two technologies. And, if you’re considering buying a headset or device, it’s worth considering the similarities and differences between the two.
When it comes to augmented reality, or AR, and virtual reality, or VR, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Instead, they serve different purposes.
Still confused about the differences between the two? Here’s everything you need to know.
What’s the difference between AR and VR?
As mentioned, there are some key differences between augmented and virtual reality, with perhaps the biggest difference being that virtual reality creates a new virtual world to explore, while augmented reality overlays digital elements on the real world. In other words, augmented reality changes your reality, while virtual reality creates an entirely new world.
So what do those virtual realities look like? Well, they can be gaming worlds, like Beat Saber, or they can be completely digital versions of locations on earth.
As mentioned, augmented reality augments what’s already around you with digital elements. Augmented reality headsets have transparent screens that allow you to see what’s happening around you, along with digital elements that are placed over the top of the real world, in the headset. That makes augmented reality handy for medical students, repair and maintenance, and more.
Neither one of these technologies is better than the other, but they could be better at specific things. For example, virtual reality is most often associated with gaming, while augmented reality is often more suited to industrial or corporate uses. That said, there is an augmented reality version of Minecraft, which overlays Minecraft elements in the real world. And, there are plenty of apps and services for industry in virtual reality.
What about VR and AR headsets?
Because these two technologies are a little different, the headsets that you use them with are different too.
Virtual reality headsets, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, are built to completely block light from the outside world, so that they can make the new, virtual reality as realistic and immersive as possible. They usually have two displays placed behind lenses that can allow users to see what’s happening on the screens as if it was happening far away – which can help reduce eye strain.
Augmented reality headsets are relatively different, and the technology used in them is evolving a lot. Current AR headsets, like the Microsoft HoloLens, project an image onto a transparent glass screen, simulating that the projection is in the distance, instead of just inches from the wearer’s eyes. In other words, while in virtual reality headsets you can’t see through the display, on augmented reality headsets, you can.
Most current augmented reality and virtual reality headsets are wired, but that is changing. Users want to be able to wear their headset on the go, and as the technology develops, more and more headsets are likely to be wireless. That said, if you do have a wired headset, you may also want an extension cable to extend the range of the headset.