How Do AR and VR Work and What’s The Difference Between Them

Post date :

Mar 14, 2023

How Do AR and VR Work and What’s The Difference Between Them

Being both immersive technologies, augmented reality and virtual reality are often interchanged. The confusion arises because some of their elements overlap in some way. One way to understand how distinct these two technologies are from each other is to know how they fit in the extended reality spectrum.

Image source: UX for XR: From One Designer to Another | Aleatha Singleton & Circuit Stream - YouTube

The XR spectrum encompasses the continuum from real reality to virtual reality with augmented reality bridging the gap. RR is essentially the real world, the actual physical environment we live in. AR overlays digital information onto this world. Because of the varying levels of augmentation AR offers, it occupies a wider range in the XR spectrum and comprises what we call mixed reality. As we move towards the other end of the spectrum, virtual reality immerses us completely in a fully digital world.

With different realities requiring different UX rules, it is important to distinguish their distinct characteristics to make better decisions on which technology to use for specific projects. Here, we focus on differentiating the two pillars of immersive media–virtual reality and augmented reality.

Virtual Reality: Full Immersion in Virtual Environments

Virtual reality transports users into a virtually simulated world that either recreates real-life environments or creates totally imaginary worlds. The technology utilises 3D digital images, spatial sound, computer vision, and other similar elements to create hyper realistic visual experiences for users. It requires the use of special equipment such as VR headsets and controllers with sensors which let users interact with the virtual content just as they would interact with objects in the real world. VR equipment make full immersion in virtual environments possible.

The most popular use cases of virtual reality are in the entertainment and gaming sector, but it is also widely used for training simulations in different sectors. Flight simulations, battlefield training, emergency response drills, and other exercises of dangerous nature can be conducted safely through virtual reality. Classroom teaching and corporate trainings can also be made more immersive to enhance retention.

Augmented Reality: Enhancing the Real World

While virtual reality isolates users from the real world for them to be fully immersed in the simulated digital environment, augmented reality lets users interact with digital objects in the real world by overlaying these virtual objects onto real environments. 

In training simulations, using augmented reality does not hinder the user’s vision of the real world. They can walk around freely while interacting with the digital overlays. In this sense, AR allows us to interact with both the virtual and real worlds.

If you have used Snapchat filters, Pokémon Go, and the IKEA Place app on your smartphone, you have enjoyed the wonders of augmented reality. Since it does not require the use of special equipment or a dedicated space, its use cases are more common. 

AR vs VR: Devices for Unique User Experiences

With VR and AR having distinct use cases, each also requires different devices. For users to enjoy the fully immersive environments of virtual reality, they must use headsets such as Oculus Quest, Valve Index, or HTC Vive. These headsets block the field of vision in the real world, so the user sees only the virtual environment. Haptic devices or controllers with sensors are also needed for the user to interact with elements in the virtual world.

In contrast, augmented reality can be experienced even without the use of special gears. Smartphones, tablets, and other common devices can be used to overlay virtual images or information that enhances the real world. However, there is also special equipment that can be used to improve user experiences in AR such as Snap’s Spectacles and Microsoft’s HoloLens.

The different devices required for AR and VR experiences further underscores the importance of knowing how distinct these two realities are from each other.

Obtaining Skills for AR and VR

Both the AR and VR market have been on the rise for years. In fact, the revenue in this market is expected to grow by 15.60% within the next five years. By 2027, the market volume is estimated to be over 52 billion US dollars. If you want to be part of this growth, now is the perfect time to equip yourself with the necessary skills.

The University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies offers online programs in XR development and design. The certification programs require only five hours a week and can be completed in ten weeks. The bootcamp for Unity development takes 30 weeks and takes you one step closer to getting an Associate Programmer Certification. Download the brochure for the course to know which one is best for you:

Designed and implemented in collaboration with Circuit Stream, these program offerings are among the best AR/VR courses you can take to advance your career in the field of extended reality. Learn from industry experts and collaborate with peers as you fulfill the project requirements and enrich your XR skills.

© Circuit Stream.
This course is delivered by Circuit Stream in collaboration with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

© Circuit Stream.
This course is delivered by Circuit Stream in collaboration with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.

© Circuit Stream.
This course is delivered by Circuit Stream in collaboration with the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies.