The world of science fiction is absolutely amazing. Only in science fiction can we see such wonderful things like flying cars and jetpacks. Of course, flying cars and jetpacks would be ridiculous, since most people can barely drive normal cars! Still, being able to read and dream about amazing advances in technology can be quite entertaining.
However, some of the amazing things in science fiction have slowly but surely become science fact. The internet, for example, was once the purview of fiction. The idea that people could send information over electronic connections, or wirelessly through the air, was nothing more than fanciful imagination. The modern smart phone does more than the communicators from Star Trek, and contains more computing power than what was necessary to launch the first space shuttle! The idea of cyberwear, cybernetic limbs that could be connected to the human body and still be functional, is becoming something that people can actually have grafted on to them in order to replace missing limbs.
And then there’s virtual and augmented reality. Computer generated images and sound that manages to replace reality in some aspect. These things are no longer merely restrained to fiction, but have now become science fact.
Is There A Difference?
Many people will use Virtual Reality to encompass the entirety of computer generated reality that people can interact with. If it’s not “real”, and people can interact with it as if it is real, then people use VR as the descriptive term. However, not all computer generated realities are actually virtual reality. There is a very real difference between augmented reality and virtual reality, and it’s worth knowing the difference as the two become more prevalent throughout human culture.
Virtual reality is a reality entirely created by computers. The person may feel as though they’re interacting with a real, full world, but it’s all virtual. Hence the name virtual reality. There’s nothing about it that’s actually real. Naturally, virtual reality tends to require a full set up, with eye pieces, ear pieces, and often times full body suits with a number of electronic hookups. This allows people to interact with the world around them, wince it’s all part of a computer and none of it is physical.
Augmented reality, by contrast, requires actual reality to work. Instead of creating an entire world, such as in virtual reality, augmented reality simply creates a portion. Thus, there might be a cartoon bear that interacts with the world around it. It walks around on the desk, perhaps draws some images (which themselves are augmented reality), and otherwise seems completely real. However, it’s not real, it’s a computer image, created entirely with code and artistic design. While this still requires some equipment to interact with, it doesn’t necessarily. Holograms are essentially a type of augmented reality, and can be created with a projector instead of needing an input/output device the way virtual reality does.
If you’re looking for a short, soundbyte way to describe the two, think of this. Augmented reality enhanced reality, where as virtual reality replaces it.
What’s The Benefit Of One Over The Other?
It may seem as though augmented and virtual reality cover the same niche, but that is not the case! The real truth is that each one has its own benefits and drawbacks, depending on what you want to do.
Augmented reality is quickly becoming a great way to advertise and let people interact with aspects of information and such that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. Since augmented reality doesn’t require an input/output device, places can use it as a way to impart information to people. It’s an expensive way to do so, yes, but the technology is becoming easier to use every day.
Virtual reality is better for things such as gaming and game-like things. There are several virtual reality gaming devices in existence right now, and some amazing games for them. People can use virtual reality to completely immerse themselves in an alternate reality, with all that that implies.
At the end of the day, we’re only just starting to see the amazing ways that both augmented and virtual reality can affect our lives. No doubt that the future will find them both as indispensable as the internet is currently!