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AR vs. VR: Is Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality not almost the same?

Virtual reality vs. augmented reality

Confusion between augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) occurs time and again, and sometimes the two terms are mistakenly used as synonyms.
There is also often a debate about which technology is better. The question of whether augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) is "better" misses the point, as both technologies offer very different applications and experiences.


However, the two immersive technologies, which are also grouped together under the term Extended Reality (XR), differ quite significantly upon closer inspection.

AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are technologies that create digital experiences. The The differences between augmented reality and virtual reality lie in the way in which they provide these experiences.

Virtual Reality

With virtual reality, the user is completely transported into a virtual world that is experienced exclusively through VR glasses or a similar device. 

These worlds are often 3D animated worlds. VR allows users to immerse themselves in an immersive, computer-generated environment that makes them feel like they are actually physically in another place. This feeling we refer to as Immersion referred to. The virtual world is often controlled by a controller or by body movements of the user. Simply put, virtual reality (VR) teleports us virtually to another place and we no longer have any connection to our real surroundings.

The barrier to entry for virtual reality (VR) is generally higher than for augmented reality (AR) for several reasons:

  1. Complex hardware requirementsTo create an immersive VR experience, headsets and or powerful computers are needed. Since the distribution of headsets in Germany is still very low, there are no clear distibution paths for VR content.
  2. Space requirement : Virtual reality in many cases requires a dedicated space or at least a specific area where users can move around without disturbance or risk of injury.
  3. Motion Sickness: Some users experience symptoms such as nausea or dizziness when using VR technology. This phenomenon, known as motion sickness. How susceptible someone is to motion sickness varies quite a bit.
  4. Cognitive load: Immersion in a completely virtual world can be overwhelming at first for users who are not used to such technologies. This differs from augmented reality, where digital information is superimposed on the physical world, often making it more intuitive to interpret.

Unlike virtual reality, AR often only requires a smartphone. This generally makes AR more accessible to the average user.

Augmented reality

AR supplements the real world with digital elements that are made visible via AR glasses or a smartphone display. AR inserts digital elements such as images, texts or animations into the user's field of vision and integrates them seamlessly into the real world. The user remains in the real world and can still see and experience their surroundings. Therefore, AR technology comes into its own best when there is a contextual relationship between the real world and the virtual objects. This would be the case, for example, when additional virtual information is added to an exhibit in a museum in the real world through a virtual overlay in AR. AR can be experienced through AR glasses like the HoloLens 2, through tablets, and even with smartphones. AR technology is also becoming increasingly available in the browser of mobile devices this technology is referred to as WebAR designated.

When to use VR and AR depends on the specific requirements and goals of the project. VR is useful for applications that require full immersion in another environment, such as simulations, games, or training. Application examples for VR. AR, on the other hand, is better suited for applications where digital information or objects are to be embedded in the real world, such as maintenance, repair, navigation, or marketing.

Augmented reality and virtual reality are growing together

Modern VR glasses like the Meta Quest 3 are increasingly managing to combine AR features with virtual reality. This is possible thanks to Passthrough mode and advanced room recognition. This enables you to see the real environment through the closed VR glasses using outward-facing cameras. 

And what is mixed reality, anyway?

Although VR and AR are often mentioned in the same context, they serve different purposes. VR offers an escape from the real world by transporting the user into a completely new environment. AR, on the other hand, enriches the real world by supplementing it with helpful, informative or entertaining digital elements.

clarence dadson

Let us advise you.

Are you interested in developing a virtual reality or 360° application? You may still have questions about budget and implementation. Feel free to contact me.

I am looking forward to you

Clarence Dadson CEO Design4real