Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m excited to talk to you about the differences between virtual reality and augmented reality. As a technical writer with experience in software and consumer electronics products, I’ve had the opportunity to explore both of these technologies in depth. Virtual reality and augmented reality are often used interchangeably, but they are actually quite different. Understanding these differences is important for anyone interested in exploring the world of immersive technology. In this article, I’ll break down the key differences between virtual reality and augmented reality, and provide examples of how each technology is being used today. So, let’s dive in!


Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two revolutionary pieces of technology. The development of both has been driven almost entirely by the gaming industry and more uses for this technology are being discovered every day. It can be tricky to keep track of the differences between the two, so here is an overview of Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality; their similarities, differences, and current applications.

The first point to note is that both technologies depend on a visual display such as a screen or headset that presents different digital media in depth on demand. This could include video game worlds, video game characters, as well as other digital objects like websites and videos. Both technologies strive to make immersive experiences using graphics but in slightly different ways:

  • VR immerses users into a completely virtual world.
  • AR overlays virtual items onto the real world around us with the aim to enhance it.

Definition of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is an artificial environment that is created with software and presented to the user in such a way that the user accepts it as a real environment. It is achieved by creating a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. This environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience—for example, in simulations for pilot or combat training—or it can differ significantly from reality, such as in VR games.


Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment. Unlike traditional user interfaces, VR places the user inside an experience. Instead of viewing a screen in front of them, users are immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds. By simulating as many senses as possible, such as vision, hearing, touch and even smell, the computer is transformed into a gatekeeper to this artificial world. The only limits to near-real VR experiences are the availability of content and hardware.

When it comes to audio and video, there is still some room for improvement. However, hardware advancements have largely overcome many obstacles associated with virtual reality. Circumstantial awareness – which refers to one’s understanding of their environment – can be enhanced through positioning systems like Wi-Fi or GPS. With positional tracking software like NOLO CV1 or Chirp GPS being integrated into virtual reality headsets, we now have an even better way to track user position across devices and platforms with enhanced accuracy. Furthermore, virtual reality can be used for therapeutic purposes such as treating anxiety disorders with exposure therapy using 360-degree video content that immerses viewers in dangerous scenarios without putting them in actual danger.


Examples of Virtual Reality can be seen in the gaming industry and more recently in the medical field. Gaming companies, such as Oculus and HTC, have revolutionized the gaming industry with virtual reality headsets. In addition to adding a new element of engagement, these headsets give gamers a full 360-degree view of the game environment, allowing for a greater level of immersion and exploration than ever before.

The use of virtual reality has become increasingly popular within the medical sector through its ability to provide an immersive educational experience for healthcare professionals and patients. For example, virtual reality can be used to simulate an operation within various body parts or during different stages of surgery by providing visuals that would otherwise be impossible to visualize from close proximity or from within multiple angles. Additionally, virtual reality provides a safer environment for medical professionals to practice and rehearse their surgical techniques as well as become familiar with specific tools and instruments before working on real patients.

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Definition of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality, or AR, is a technology that allows digital information to be superimposed onto the physical environment in real-time. AR can be used to create compelling video or visual experiences, or to simply provide contextual information, such as directions, translations, or product details. In this article, we will further explore the definitions and differences of virtual reality and augmented reality.


Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that intersects digital information with the user’s physical environment, in real-time. It utilizes camera, sound, and other sensory inputs to layer virtual elements into the user’s view of the physical world. By using virtual components to enhance a person’s real-world experience it blurs the line between what is real and what is computer generated by enhancing a user’s existing senses.

In contrast to Virtual Reality (VR), which replaces its user’s reality with a simulated one, AR incorporates both virtual and physical elements while keeping users firmly rooted in the present. This makes AR ideal for use cases where people need additional context in everyday behaviors such as shopping, gaming, or wayfinding applications.

Common uses of Augmented Reality include:

  • Online Shopping Assistance: Use your camera to view clothing items from an online store virtually available on yourself or model
  • Gaming Experiences: Enhance players live environment with audio/visual cues associated with their game elements
  • Wayfinding Assistance: Visualize routes within city streets through visual mapping capabilities


With augmented reality, however, digital elements are overlaid atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. Examples of augmented reality experiences include Snapchat lenses and the game Pokemon Go.

When you use a Snapchat lens, you’re actually using computer vision technology to recognize your face (or whatever other objects are recognized by the lens you’re using). Once the image is recognized, the augmented reality technology inserts animations and various 3D elements into your camera viewfinder – so it looks like whatever “lens” you’re using (such as a dancing hot dog or puking rainbow) is actually in your environment. In this case, you experience AR when you look through your phone.

Similarly, Pokemon Go allows users to experience virtual creatures in real-world locations. The app uses GPS and camera features on phones to create an augmented world where creatures creep around tangible surroundings. To catch one of these virtual monsters, users must physically walk around their environment until a creature appears that they can capture by swiping their screen.

Differences between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are two different technologies that offer a range of immersive experiences. While VR immerses users in a virtual world, AR projects digital elements onto the physical world. But what is the difference between the two technologies? This article will explain the differences between VR and AR.


Immersion is one of the most important differences between virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). With virtual reality, users are taken into a completely different world. This world can be realistic or entirely imagined. Either way, it immerses the user entirely in another space, completely blocking out their physical environment.

On the other hand, augmented reality does not block out the physical environment. Instead it adds digital elements to our physical environment as we experience it. That means that users of AR are still present and aware of their actual environment while interacting with an augmentation at the same time. For example, a user may see hot spots on their walls using an AR app that indicates weak spots for insulation to improve energy efficiency in their home.

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One of the main differences between virtual reality and augmented reality are their levels of interactivity. Virtual reality eliminates physical boundaries by recreating a fully immersive, three-dimensional environment with objects that can be interacted with. Virtual simulations are highly interactive, allowing the user to manipulate objects, perform tasks and interact with non-player characters in real time.

Augmented reality, on the other hand, overlays digital content onto a physical environment. This content is often interactive, but it must be designed within the limits of the physical world in order to accurately interact with objects that exist in it. Because augmented reality combines graphics with real-world elements which may change over time, users must spend more time curating their experience and understanding how everything works together before they can begin to enjoy its benefits.


Realism is an important factor when trying to determine the differences between virtual reality and augmented reality.

Virtual reality offers a completely immersive experience, allowing users to explore a computer-generated simulation that feels as though they are interacting with it in real life. This level of realism is made possible by the advanced hardware, software and sensory apparatus used with VR systems.

Augmented reality relies heavily on visual elements to provide additional context or information, but it doesn’t offer the same level of realism found in virtual reality. The user may be looking at something that is physically there, such as a piece of furniture or a block of text, but there will be no sensory feedback giving the impression that they are “inside” a virtual world. Augmented reality instead focuses on enhancing existing physical objects rather than creating convincing simulations.

Applications of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two vastly different technologies used for different purposes. Virtual Reality provides users with an immersive experience by completely replacing the user’s physical environment with a virtual one. On the other hand, Augmented Reality adds digital elements to the user’s view of the real world.

Both technologies have their applications in various industries and today we will look at some of the most common applications of both technologies:

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality (VR) is a computerized system that attempts to recreate real or imagined environments that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way. It is designed to make users feel as though they are present in the environment, allowing them to explore and interact with the objects inside of it. Generally, this requires wearing a headset or goggles to give users a 3D virtual world to explore and manipulate with its accompanying movements and audio.

VR can be used for entertainment, training simulations, gaming, education, and more.

Some of the most common applications for virtual reality include:

  • Gaming
  • Movies
  • 360-degree tours for business spaces like hotels or facilities
  • Remote healthcare consultations and treatments such as physical therapy or pain management
  • Architecture designs and visualizations (which allow designers to see their work before constructing it)
  • Online shopping experiences (for example – virtual stores)
  • Museums and galleries which offer visitors an interactive experience & immersive experience with virtual reality devices within their walls while exploring historical artifacts and works of art
  • Escape rooms by providing users with an immersive adventure experience which involves solving puzzles & uncovering secrets within the computer-generated environment

VR offers endless possibilities when it comes to applications provided by the technology ranging from art & design to healthcare & military training.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with (or view) it. It is typically experienced by looking through a smart device such as a smartphone or tablet, or through wearable tech like glasses or in some cases contact lenses.

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In AR, the physical world serves as an interface, merging the digital and physical. A great benefit of this technology is its ability to layer data and graphics onto real-world scenes and video streams—helping users recognize patterns or trends that they may not otherwise be able to see.

AR technologies are used in many industries from entertainment to education, from marketing to healthcare. The economics of augmented reality depends on its usage scenarios and vary from consumer use cases such as mobile gaming applications for entertainment purposes; enterprise use cases such as remote working for collaboration and data visualization tools for decision making; consumer service use cases such as virtual try-on for apparel shopping; medical use cases such as remote surgery for training surgeons; automotive use cases such as heads-up displays for safer operation of cars; aviation use cases such as smart cockpit—helping pilots with real-time situation analysis and reference material during flight operations.

The augmented reality technology encompasses 3D models/objects, speech processing (voice recognition), gesture control systems, computer vision software etc., enabling life-like avatar/virtual experiences while interacting with the physical objects using devices like mobile phones, tablets or other wearables. Common examples include Pokemon Go and Snapchat filters that utilize people’s facial features to add animations around them for recreational purposes. Improved performance/reliability/security with lesser resource investment have enabled AR applications across multiple industries including healthcare, travel & tourism, retail & eCommerce etc., which ultimately helps reduce cost associated with services offered in these sectors.


In conclusion, both virtual reality and augmented reality offer users a unique way to experience content. Virtual reality is an immersive environment that completely shuts out the physical world, allowing users to explore and interact with their environment from within the confines of their headset. Augmented reality, on the other hand, enhances the real world by adding digital elements to it in order for users to better interact with the environment around them.

Both technologies offer exciting opportunities in various settings such as education, entertainment, gaming and training but are limited by their current technology. As advancements continue to be made in terms of hardware capabilities and software development, it is likely that these two forms of immersive technology will become evermore commonplace in our lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality?

Virtual reality immerses the user into a completely simulated environment, completely blocking out the real world. Augmented reality overlays digital information onto the real world, enhancing it in some way.

2. What are the main applications of virtual and augmented reality?

Virtual reality is often used for gaming, training simulations, and in healthcare for pain management and therapy. Augmented reality is used in fields such as education, advertising, and navigation.

3. What kind of equipment do I need for virtual and augmented reality?

Virtual reality typically requires a headset, controllers, and a powerful computer or game console. Augmented reality can be experienced with a smartphone, tablet or smart glasses.

4. Which is better for educational purposes, virtual reality or augmented reality?

Both have their benefits: virtual reality allows for complete immersion, while augmented reality provides a practical learning experience. It depends on the subject matter and the learning goals of the specific lesson or course.

5. Can virtual reality and augmented reality be used together?

Yes, mixed reality combines elements of both virtual reality and augmented reality to create a shared environment where digital objects and the real world can coexist and interact in real time.

6. Will virtual reality and augmented reality eventually replace traditional forms of media?

It is unlikely that virtual and augmented reality will completely replace traditional forms of media. However, as the technology continues to improve and become more accessible, it will likely become an increasingly common way to experience media and interact with the world around us.