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Augmented Reality (AR) vs Virtual Reality (VR) – What’s the Difference?

From streams of consciousness unleashed on social media to streamlined communication channels across the globe, it’s no understatement to say that technology has irrevocably changed the way people live their lives. The line between the digital world and reality grows increasingly blurry with every passing day, and there’s no better example to exemplify this than the rise of digital experiences like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR): the perfect intersection of the two.

Digital experiences meld digital elements and real life together to create an entirely new and immersive experience for users, creating an “extended reality” of sorts. This article will uncover more about the two.

Augmented reality
At its core, augmented reality quite literally augments digitally-generated visual elements into the real world environment. Think of it as an additional layer to your regular field of vision. The potential of AR is endless—beyond entertainment, this technology has revolutionized industries like education, retail, and communication, in recent years.

Living in the pandemic has meant that a lot of us have turned to online shopping, whether out of necessity or as a coping mechanism—but how many times have you eagerly awaited for your package only to realise that nothing looks as you imagined? With the help of AR, an increasing number of companies are tackling this problem by enabling you to actually see what the products on your wishlist actually look like. Take a look at this ad from IKEA on their app Place which does exactly that!

On the medical front, the possibilities of AR are also being explored both in practice and in training. For one, AR can help medical professionals more easily explain procedures to their patients and education through AR may be a lot more effective when students can visually learn rather than look at flat images in their textbooks. Below, Youtuber The Medical Futurist gives a run-down of what the future may hold for AR in healthcare, all in just one minute!

Part of the reason why AR has gone mainstream is due to its increased accessibility. Because of increased app support and tech development over the years, most smart devices, including phones, desktops, and tablets, support it.

Virtual reality
Though people tend to get mixed up between AR and VR, there are definitely a few key differences between the two. Like The Medical Futurist mentioned: while AR adds to the existing real world, virtual reality fully detaches the user from it. Often, the user is immersed into an entirely new reality which is further enhanced by such videos being shot in first-person perspective, making the user feel as though the scenes that unfold do so before their very eyes.

female wearing vr headset

What is similar between VR and AR is their flexibility in implementation throughout a plethora of industries. VR is now actually being incorporated with therapy for mental health, including a form of exposure therapy (VRET) for patients. The idea for exposure therapy is to have a patient face a traumatic or frightening event and confront it, but for this to be effective, the situation has to mimic the patient’s memory as closely as possible. Not only does VR successfully fill this gap, but does so in a safe environment. This has been used to treat social anxiety, claustrophobia, and a fear of driving among others.

It would almost be a sin to not mention gaming when it comes to digital experiences. This medium has brought about the rise of exclusive VR games, promising immersion like never before. Beyond your standard action games, a few, like Epic Roller Coasters, let you experience a roller coaster that probably wouldn’t be all that thrilling if you watched it as a 2D video. Check out A Township Tale, one of the newer RPG VR games to hit the scene.

As enthralling as VR may sound, it’s not without its drawbacks. Unlike the more accessible AR, VR can only be accessed on a stand-alone head-mounted display device (VR headsets). While mobile VR is also an option (for some smartphone models), you’d still need to get a headset for full immersion. Still, it’s enticing enough for many to purchase them, while others may visit VR arcades once in a while for the novel thrill.

Conclusion
Digital experiences are on the rise and it doesn’t look like they’re going to peak anytime soon. Whether you’re drawn to the escapist fantasies of virtual reality, or the added element of whimsy to augmented reality, digital experiences bring something entirely new to the table. With some industries already implementing them into their processes, it won’t be long before digital experiences become the norm. If you’re interested in how you can play around with this experiential format, reach out to the top augmented and virtual reality company in Singapore!

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