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There is a lot of buzz around augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) right now. But what do these terms mean? And what is the difference between them?

In this write-up, we will briefly explain augmented reality vs virtual reality, and discuss the major differences between them, as well as their applications and future.

An Augmented World: What Is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality is a technology that overlays computer-generated images and information on top of the real world. This allows users to see digital content in their real-world surroundings.

One of the most popular examples of AR is Pokémon GO, a mobile game that superimposes digital creatures on the player’s real-world surroundings through their phone’s camera.

What Are The Primary Components Of An Augmented Reality System? 

An AR system typically contains three main components:

  1. A sensor (such as a camera) captures information about the user’s surroundings. See OMCH range of sensors.
  2. A processor interprets this information and generates digital content,
  3. A display (such as a smartphone screen) to present the content to the user.

Besides all this, a user also needs several types of software to enable AR, such as:

  1. Image registration software takes photos to determine real-life coordinates and objects within the frame.
  2. 3D rendering software overlays the AR info on top of the registered image.
  3. Content or database management system to maintain a database of all the 3D models and virtual objects.
  4. A user interface is an intermediary between the user and the video representation of the augmented environment.

Augmented Reality (AR): Pros and Cons

Pros:

-Creates an interactive experience that can engage users

-Can be used in a variety of settings and industries

-Allows users to see digital content in their real-world surroundings

Cons:

-High cost of development and maintenance

-Potential for privacy and security concerns

-Limited content and app availability

A Virtual World: What Is Virtual Reality (VR)?

Augmented Reality

Virtual reality is a technology that creates a simulated, three-dimensional environment that can be explored and interacted with by a person. This is done by wearing a VR headset, which blocks out the real world and immerses the user in the simulated environment. A popular example of VR is Oculus Rift, a gaming headset created by Facebook-owned Oculus VR.

What Are The Components Of A Virtual Reality System? 

A VR environment typically contains the following components:

  1. A visual display to indulge the user in the virtual world, and block any sensory impressions from the real. 
  2. A graphic rendering system to generate ever-changing images. 
  3. A tracking system to inform the position and orientation of the movements
  4. A database that maintains detailed and realistic models of the virtual world
  5. Tracking devices like gloves enable user interaction with the virtual world. 

Virtual Reality (VR): Pros and Cons

Pros:

-Can create realistic and immersive experiences

-Has a wide range of applications across different industries

-Is becoming more affordable and accessible

Cons:

-Can cause motion sickness in some users

-Requires a lot of processing power, which can drain battery life

-Potential for privacy and security concerns

Difference Between Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality

Both technologies involve simulation, but they rely on different components and target different audiences. In virtual reality, you have to wear a full eye-covering headset to replace the real world with the virtual one.

You also need headphones to eliminate the real world as much as possible. Once inside, the VR world can provide just about any environment, from a simple battle scene to a complete recreation of the world. 

In contrast, real-world objects are merely supplemented with computer-generated information (such as sounds, graphics or GPS data) with augmented reality. You don’t need headsets or eye-covering glasses, as the technology is integrated into phones, contact lenses, eyeglasses, and even car windshields.

And while virtual reality is used mostly for entertainment purposes, augmented reality has many more potential applications in fields such as education, training, design, and even medicine.

What Are Some Examples Of Augmented And Virtual Reality In Real Life Today? 

Virtual Reality

Augmented reality has growing applications in several fields. Below are some actual applications of the technology in real life today:

  1. Ikea Place – It’s a mobile app that lets you envision Ikea furniture in your living room by overlaying a 3D representation of a piece on top of your room’s live video feed.
  2. ScopeAR – Let’s you do remote installations, repairs, and other maintenance work without having any expert traveling to your location. The app overlays instructions on real places where you may require repairs, maintenance or installation.
  3. Medical Realities – These are special Google Glasses for expert surgeons that help them guide other surgeons or trainees to perform various medical procedures. It uses AR to let them project their hands into the display of trainees to guide them on site.

Similarly, some real-life examples of virtual reality beyond video gaming and entertainment are:

  1. Architects and real estate developers use VR to design homes and let clients walk through them before even laying the foundation stone.
  2. The auto industry is increasingly using VR for vehicle design, allowing designers to build and test a car without manufacturing it.
  3. Virtual reality is used in several mental health institutions to treat conditions such as PTSD, anxiety disorders, and addiction.

When Were Virtual Reality And Augmented Reality First Introduced?

The first known instance of virtual reality was in the 1950s when Morton Heilig, “the father of VR”, created a machine called the Sensorama. It was a large, bulky machine that showed stereoscopic images, produced smells and sounds, and had a moving chair for the user to sit in. Although it was a very primitive form of virtual reality, Sensorama gave Heilig the idea of developing a more immersive VR experience.

The first AR system was developed in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland and his students at Harvard University and MIT. It was called the “Sword of Damocles” and consisted of a head-mounted display with a computer that tracked the user’s head movements. The system was very bulky and unwieldy, but it laid the foundation for future AR development.

Since the 1990s, both virtual and augmented reality have become more mainstream.

What Are The Challenges For AR And VR?

AR and VR are still in their infancy, and many challenges need to be addressed before they can become truly mainstream. 

Some of the challenges for AR include: 

  1. It can be difficult to seamlessly integrate computer-generated information with the real world.
  2. Mobile handsets come with limited processing power and bandwidth. While cloud-based processing offers a good potential solution, it comes with its own set of challenges like privacy, security, and latency.
  3. It can be difficult to create a consistent AR experience across different devices.
  4. The field of view is often limited by current AR technology.
  5. AR systems can be expensive and require specialized hardware.

Some of the challenges for VR include:

  1. The high cost of VR headsets is a major barrier to entry for many consumers.
  2. There is a lack of good-quality content available for VR headsets.
  3. VR headsets can be bulky and uncomfortable to wear for extended periods of time.
  4. VR headsets can cause nausea and dizziness in some users.
  5. There is a lack of standards across different VR platforms.

Despite the challenges, both AR and VR show a lot of promise and are slowly gaining traction. With continued innovation and development, they could become the next big thing in technology.

Augmented Reality VS Virtual Reality, Which Is Better?

This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on what you want to use the technology for. Virtual reality is probably a better option if you’re looking for entertainment.

However, augmented reality is the way to go if you’re looking for practical applications in other fields. Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference and what you want to use the technology for.

What’s Next For AR And VR?

The future for both AR and VR is bright. These technologies will continue to grow in popularity and become more commonplace in the years to come.

As the hardware becomes more affordable and improvements are made in mobile bandwidth, video quality, and processing power, we can expect to see AR and VR being used in everyday applications.

Moreover, systems that can accurately track facial expressions and eye movements will make all the clunky joysticks, heavy headsets, and other forms of controllers obsolete. As technology advances, we will see more natural and intuitive ways of interacting with AR and VR applications.

The possibilities are endless, and we can only imagine what the future will hold for these technologies.

The Bottom Line: AR And VR Can Be The Next Big Thing

Despite the challenges, both AR and VR show a lot of promise and are slowly gaining traction. With continued innovation and development, they could become the next big thing in technology.

Consumers are slowly becoming more open to experimentation with different applications. So, it is only a matter of time before these technologies become widely accepted and adopted on a global scale.

What are your thoughts about AR and VR? Do you think they have a place in the future? Let us know in the comments below!

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