This column is authored Diya Nair, Marketing Executive, Hakuna Matata

Augmented-reality-vs-virtual-realityThough virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have existed in some form for many years, only recently have they reaped mainstream media attention. One of the biggest confusions in the world is the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality. Both these technologies promise excellent growth. And to discuss the topic, we need to understand these technologies first. So let’s start with knowing what these technologies are:-

What is VR or Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality (VR), also known as immersive multi media or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user’s physical presence and the environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it. Virtual realities artificially create a sensory experience, which can include sight, touch, hearing, and smell. (From: Wikipedia) In layman’s language, VR is a computer simulated environment, which looks like real. The user can enter to this environment through wearing special VR headsets. It makes the users feel like they are experiencing the situation first hand.

Virtual reality is possible through a coding language known as VRML (Virtual Reality Modelling Language) which can be used to create a series of images, and specify what types of interactions are possible for them.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (from Wikipedia) To be more understandable, Augmented reality is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. AR is developed into mobile apps and used on mobile devices to blends digital components into the real world in such a way that they enhance one another, but can also be told apart easily.

Difference and similarities

Both virtual reality and augmented reality are similar in the goal of immersing the user, though both systems do this in different ways. With AR, users continue to be in touch with the real world while interacting with virtual objects around them. With VR, the user is isolated from the real world while immersed in a world that is completely fabricated. As it stands, VR might work better for video games and social networking in a virtual environment, such as Second Life, or even PlayStation Home.

VR is for content and AR is for real world, to be more detail, VR is the only medium, that immerses the user entirely into a virtual environment. They are fully isolated from the real world. When using virtual reality, you cannot check your email, or update your social network statuses, or even see what or who is near you. This strength of VR is also its weakness. It is quite dangerous because the user is not aware of what is happening around him and may end with some accidental happenings.

Whereas AR, on the other hand, adds contextual layers of information to our experiences in real time. We have seen this future foretold in Hollywood films, such as Avatar, Minority Report, Iron Man and Wall-E, among others. You cannot forget the scene from Iron man, where Tony Stark the hero communicates with his suit and gets information displayed for him, layered above what sees in the real world, this is an example of augmented reality. Soon these depictions will become real.

Virtual Reality is usually delivered to the user through a head-mounted, or hand-held controller. This equipment connects people to the virtual reality and allows them to control and navigate their actions in an environment meant to simulate the real world.

Augmented reality is being used more and more in mobile devices such as laptops, smart phones, and tablets to change how the real world and digital images, graphics intersect and interact.

Which technology will succeed?

As it stands now, augmented reality is slightly ahead of virtual reality, since there are several products already on the market. We are witnessing the rise of AR hardware devices from Google in the form of Glass, and also plans from Microsoft to launch something similar, with its $150 million purchase of wearable computing assets.

On the matter of VR, the technology is just stepping up to the plate. It’s still far away from being this great thing for social encounters in a virtual world, but with the rise of the Oculus Rift, it is getting there. We believe both AR and VR will succeed; however, AR might have more commercial success though, because it does not completely take people out of the real world.