Virtual Reality (VR) has made a big splash in the mainstream in recent years, from the book and movie, “Ready Player One” to Mark Zuckerberg’s pet project, the Metaverse. But rational and intelligent people often get confused when AR (or Augmented Reality) enters the picture.
Know your technology
If you play video games—or have seen recent pictures of people playing VR video games—you may already know that VR games require the player to wear a special headset device. That’s because the images they’re seeing within the headset are replacing their entire field of vision with an imagined (or virtual) world—and they’re able to interact with this world as if they were present within it. This conceit isn’t exclusive to gaming—as suggested at the beginning of this article, it’s already being used to create a separate imagined reality called the Metaverse, where people can meet, interact, and shop.
AR, on the other hand, doesn’t require a headset—it can be used with a smartphone, tablet, or handheld gaming device. AR works by creating an overlay on the reality you’re used to seeing every day. This can be represented by added details and information, as with the facial filters in Snapchat—or even by making imagined characters appear to be present in the real world, such as the Pokémon Go app.
Summing up the differences
The real differences come down to the devices you use and the details of the experience itself:
- AR uses a real-world setting, whereas VR is completely virtual.
- AR users control their presence in the real world, but VR users are controlled by the system and seem to exist in an immersive virtual world.
- VR requires a headset device, but AR can be accessed with just a handheld device.
Are they technological fads or gimmicks—or will they ultimately prove to be as long-lasting as the internet has proven to be? Only time will tell.
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