Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two concepts that are sometimes confused but have different purposes. The virtual reality is an artificial reality that is perceived as its actual outside and aims to replace the reality around us through devices that make us believe that we are elsewhere. The augmented reality, however, aims to modify and refine the reality adding elements through our senses but respecting the reality around us at that moment. Therefore, the first one takes us away from the real world to show us only the virtual one, while the second one combines real and virtual images.
In this way, virtual reality allows us, for example, to fully enter a video game and isolate ourselves from the room we are in when we put on glasses that transport us to a different setting. In contrast, the games based on augmented reality maintain the scenario of the reality in which we find ourselves, but they add and superimpose elements so that we can find a Pokémon in the home dining room (real scene) using the camera of our smartphone and AR technology.
From this main difference, surely you can already imagine many others, such as the need or not for special devices. In the case of virtual reality, if we want to enter a totally fictitious world we will have to isolate ourselves from the real world. To achieve this, glasses are used that cover the entire field of vision and in turn are capable of projecting 3D images to us, which may be in those same glasses or come from other equipment to which they are connected. In addition, headphones are often used to isolate any sound that surrounds us and delve fully into those of the virtual world to make the experience more real.
To view these three-dimensional images, the glasses use stereoscopic vision, a technique that is based on the visualization or projection of two images at an inter-ocular distance that simulates the left eye and the right eye: presenting a slightly different image for each eye, the illusion of depth is created in an image and this three-dimensional visual information is collected. Instead, augmented reality uses a user device (his phone, his tablet …) to start an experience in the same place where he is, but without obscuring his field of vision or hiding reality from him.
Regarding its usefulness, virtual reality is much more linked to entertainment, while augmented reality, although it has also had an impact on the world of video games, has a much wider range of uses. Some companies have started using sales applications that use augmented reality to display their products (a closet, a water fountain, a carpet, a table) exactly how they would look in the room where the customer wants to place it. The world of medicine has seen in this technology a good opportunity to improve aspects both in the field of training of professionals in the health sector as in prevention and planning prior to surgical interventions. And logistics and transportation companies use it to find the best way to fit the goods they have to put in their warehouses and trucks.
As you can see, the uses are many and very different, and these are two types of technologies that in the coming years will evolve and will increasingly be applied to more areas of our lives. We will have to be attentive to the sector to see what new advantages they can offer us!