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AR vs. VR: What’s the difference?

The most recent breakthroughs in technologies change the way we see the world. Gear like Oculus Rift pave the way to the new kind of reality – the one where we interact with digitized objects. Giant companies seem to have a lot of faith in these technologies, so we’ll probably see the advancement of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. 

Although the terms virtual reality vs augmented reality are used interchangeably, there is a distinct difference between them. This article aims to touch on the difference between these concepts.

AR and VR: Similar but different

Augmented and virtual reality share the same core, but they are different intrinsically. The key difference to remember is that virtual reality is about full immersing into the virtual world, whereas augmented reality overlays digital objects onto the real world (or the real reality, if you will).

The virtual reality gear consists of one or two screens that are placed in close proximity to the user’s face and viewed through a set of lenses. Additionally, a set of sensors is used to track the user’s head and body position. Based on this information, VR generates relevant images to create a simulation of movement in a digitally simulated environment. 

In the case of HTC Vive or similar gadgets, the users can interact with this virtual reality to a certain extent. It means that powerful gear based on PC and upcoming untethered gear allow motion, which means you will be able to stand up and walk around inside the simulation. 

Augmented reality, on the other hand, requires special glasses for the user to see the real word. The digital elements will be projected onto the glass. Here you can see the similarity between AR and VR, both of which will be using some kind of eyewear, as well as sensors to track the user’s movements. AR usually requires less computing power than VR that needs an entire simulation of the physical world and objects. 

Both technologies rely a certain degree of computer vision. This is the science that allows the gadget to understand the real world so that the digitized objects could be put into their relevant places. Many augmented reality apps today require little computer vision.

In other words, augmented reality doesn’t require to show the user the entire environment. Most apps only need a basic understanding of where the user is located combined with other signals like acoustics and GPS.

Wait, what is mixed reality then?

Mixed reality looks a lot like augmented reality because it is a combination of the physical world with digital information and computer-generated images on top of it.

The difference is that mixed reality is an attempt to mix the real and the digital. Imagine that a wall in your home becomes a computer screen. The best examples of mixed reality gear is Windows Mixed Reality.

Mixed reality sounds more exciting than augmented reality, and it requires a lot of computing power. It means that what you see for the most part is generated by a computer. At the same time, mixed reality devices need advanced computer vision because they need to help the user to avoid crashing into a wall.

Mixed reality initially is a marketing term coined by Microsoft, and it’s described by many as an exciting form of augmented reality, which alone is not extensive enough to be called mixed reality. 

As you can see, there is now a wide range of reality experiences. These technology are progressing, and we probably will wee their most bold and ambitious forms in the future. 

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