Virtual reality and augmented reality are terms used to describe the use of technology and related systems to facilitate an interactive computer-generated sensory or perceptual information and experience. Both use sensory feedbacks such as auditory or visual feedback to provide their users with an immersive experience within a computer-mediated reality.
However, despite the similarities mentioned above, virtual reality and augmented have different conceptual and operational frameworks, characteristics, and applications.
VR vs. AR: What is the Difference Between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?
Virtual reality or VR provides an interactive computer-generated perceptual information and experience transpiring within a simulated environment. Hence, a person using a VR system or device is drawn to a new environment and exposed to perceptual information artificially simulated by a computer.
On the other hand, augmented reality or AR also provides an interactive computer-generated perceptual information and experience placed on top of a real-world environment. As an example, a user of an AR system would be introduced to perceptual information laced on an actual environment.
Take note that some consider AR as one of the subsets or forms of VR. However, there are those who encourage using the two terminologies separately because of their different characteristics and applications.
Nonetheless, based on the definitions above, the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality is obvious. VR centers on drawing its users into an artificially produced virtual or simulated environment by letting them experience computer-generated perceptual information.
In contrast, AR augments or supplements the real world with computer-generated perceptual information. It does not draw users into a simulated environment but instead, keeps them in their real world while providing them with additional perceptual information generated by a computer. This is the reason why AR is also called mixed reality.
VR simply replaces the real world with a simulated world while AR merely overlays the real world with computer-generated perceptual information. VR is a wholly immersive experience than AR because it allows users to interact it with a new virtual world or seemingly alternative reality.
To put it in another perspective, AR alters the real environment or brings components of the digital world or so-called digital elements into the perception of the natural environment. AR adds to the existing natural world while VR transports its user to a new albeit artificial world.
A Note on the Difference of Mixed Reality with Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
While there are those who classify mixed reality as a subset of augmented reality and thus, another type of virtual reality, there are those who argue for strictly differentiating these three to avoid lexical confusion.
Remember that virtual reality immerses users into a simulated world or artificial environment while augmented reality places computer-generated perceptual information such as virtual objects on the real-world or natural environment.
On the other hand, mixed reality specifically combines real world and virtual world or the artificial environment with the natural environment to create a new world. Unlike augmented reality, it does not overlay computer-generated perceptual information but anchor them to the natural world and real-world environment.