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Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality: a Comparative Analysis

Submitted By: 

Neha Rastogi

The lives we lead today would never have been the same without technology. It’s quite evident that machines and gadgets play a crucial role in our day-to-day activities and hence it is important to understand the concept of these technological innovations before we interact with them. We all know that both augmented reality and virtual reality offer an amazing gaming experience but there’s a lot more than that.

Virtual Reality vs Mixed Reality

Virtual Reality vs Mixed Reality

Both these technologies incorporate a common element of 3D images thereby indulging the user in a world which is unreal but still seems to be real. Besides, the media attention and market growth have been equally favourable for the two. A novice user may think of these as the same thing but technically there is a lot of difference.

In order to get things straight, let’s take a look at the comparison between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality encompassing the differences, similarities, and some other important aspects.


Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality

It is the simulation of a real-life environment that stimulates the vision and hearing of the users and allow them to experience a simulated reality. It makes use of VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language), a coding language, which creates a series of images and enables various kinds of possible interactions. Usually, the user has to put on a VR headset known as head-mounted displays after which one is able to look around, hear, touch or (possibly) smell objects arranged in an artificial world. Oculus Rift is a VR headset which is primarily available for gaming.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality

In this technology, some computer-generated layers in form of graphics, sound, and videos are stacked on to the real life objects so as to enable the users to interact with that environment. Here, the user can experience an artificial environment while being present in the real world without getting detached from their surroundings. Instead of replacing things, it adds modifications in real-time which can be experienced through an app and a mobile device. Pokemon Go is a popular example of AR which garnered more than 100 million downloads within a few weeks.

Difference between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Picture Depicting Physical, Augmented, and Virtual Reality

Picture Depicting Physical, Augmented, and Virtual Reality

Although both the technologies seek to indulge the user in an unreal, artificial setup, these are inverse reflections of each other. While VR isolates the user and takes him/her to another world, AR users continue to dwell in the real world during their interaction with the virtual objects. In a nutshell, the former is more immersive and offers a digital recreating of real life setup while the latter delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world and gives more freedom. Let’s travel through the list of features differentiating both the technologies.


The purpose of VR is to create its own computer generated, digital world without using the actual real-life setup. On the other hand, AR adds virtual components like graphics and images as a layer onto the real objects.

Method of Delivery

VR is delivered to the users through a head-mounted display or a handheld controller which allows them to navigate and perform actions in the simulated world. Whereas, AR is made available to the users through an app that can be installed and run on mobile devices. As soon as you place your device over the object, it changes itself into a 3D image which is not visible, otherwise.


VR involves a lot of equipment involving headsets and headphones which may not be comfortable enough. However, it’s quite immersive and engaging due to the fact that the user has no idea as to what’s going on in the actual world while using a VR headset.

Contrary to this, AR is really comfortable as it’s often lightweight and doesn’t require you to wear heavy gadgets. Yet, AR may offer a limited view implying that it’s less engaging as compared to VR.

Business Applications

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality Business Applications

Virtual Reality Business Applications

You may also read: Virtual Reality Applications in Different Fields

• Interactions and Meetings

Virtual Reality can be utilised in different ways by the business houses whether it’s for meetings, presentations or training sessions. It’s an innovative medium to enable interaction among employees located at different places without hampering the quality of operations.

VR can be used to create simulated images of the conference room with furniture and fixtures so that participants feel that they are sitting in the same room. It’s more life-like as compared to video conferencing or any other means of communication.

• Sales

Often professionals have to prepare presentations in order to crack a deal with the clients or participate in tradeshows. In such a situation, VR can be helpful in representing their business vision in front of the potential clients. A VR experience through the headset is much more interactive than the conventional charts, graphs, and PPTs.

• Product Testing

In future, VR could also be explored and utilised in testing products that are dangerous to operate in person. By taking on the test in a computer-simulated environment, companies can cut down their production cost as well as safety measures.

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality Business Applications

Augmented Reality Business Applications

Product Designing

With the help of 3D prototyping and AR, product-centric companies can very well anticipate as well as customize their products in advance. This would ease and speed up the production process, thereby minimizing any wastage or unwanted expenditure.


In shops and stores, AR can be used in the packaging and displays of products so as to engage the customers. For example, some toy companies set up kiosks in-store where customers can scan a product and see its 3D version on the screen without having to open the packaging.


AR is surely changing the conventional methods of advertising by adding the augmented content to them. Companies are now designing print ads and billboards which come alive when a device with an AR application hovers on it. For example, Vespa printed an ad which could be scanned through an app and then readers could even customize the scooter with the help of various options available.


AR can also be used to prepare sales presentations for B2B projects by demonstrating what the product would look like in the particular location and that too in real-time. This field is still unexplored but in future, such applications might become common for the business professionals.


As stated above, the basic concept of both these technologies involves simulation and computer-generated images so as to render an enriching experience to the users. Besides, both were primarily introduced for entertainment purposes and were targeted towards the gamers. In addition, even the business and medical fields make use of these technologies for common purposes.


Since we are comparing both AR and VR it doesn’t mean that both the technologies always work independently. Although one can’t use them interchangeably, there is a concept called Mixed Reality that combines both augmented and virtual reality to create a hybrid reality. It’s quite similar to AR but here the virtual content and real life objects are able to communicate with each other in real-time. For example, Microsoft HoloLens is a mixed reality headset that makes use of Windows Holographic technology which incorporates virtual elements with real-world elements that exist together in a shared environment.

Mixed Reality

Mixed Reality

As far as the superiority of any one of these technologies is considered, there’s no definite winner in the battle. Both of them have been enjoying a favourable spot in their respective markets and are receiving a huge amount of investments from some of the top tech companies like Microsoft and Facebook. Observing the nature of these technologies, AR is more likely to be a part of commercial applications while VR is suitable for entertainment (particularly gaming) and other social setups.

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