What Is the Difference Between AR and VR?

augmented reality vs. virtual realityIf augmented reality and virtual reality sound like something from the future, you’re right. The future just arrived a little sooner than we thought.

Technology evolves at a lightning-fast pace and each year brings with it new and exciting innovations that change the way we interact with each other and the world at large. According to research from The Emerging Future, five years from now we’ll see technology that is 32x more advanced than what we currently have on display.

Ten years from now? Try 1,024 times more advanced. Hardly comprehensible given our present immersive capacity for technology. If we stay focused on what is leading edge today, though, augmented reality and virtual reality are two technological mediums that are attracting a lot of attention. Let’s take a look at both and break down how these advancements will likely affect our lives in the future.

AR and VR – What’s the Difference?

Both augmented reality and virtual reality use some form of technology to “transport” the user out of their normal environment and into one that is artificially created by computer software.

For example, the recent craze around Pokémon Go demonstrates how a smartphone user can interact with something that they see – something in their normal environment, yet something that they know for certain does not exist in reality. This is an example of augmented reality, and virtual reality takes it one step further.

Virtual reality indicates the user is completely immersed in an artificially-created world with some form of helmet or goggles employed to deliver the vibrant and all-encompassing images that are the hallmark of a VR experience. Users are often able to interact with this “world,” and a good quality virtual reality experience should allow individuals to feel confused as to what is real and what is simply a computer program. While augmented reality can help people to interact with one another, albeit in a digitally-enhanced manner, virtual reality is better suited to those who simply want to experience something in a more isolated manner.

What Is the Future of AR and VR?

A myriad of industries is presently investigating the viability of both virtual reality and augmented reality as relevant tools to integrate into their marketing plans. One big group that is adopting VR is healthcare. Therapists are finding virtual reality therapy can help patients who suffer from social anxiety issues like public speaking or being around too many people, or phobias like flying, heights, and more. Since therapists are able to expose the patients to virtual triggers in a controlled environment, medical professionals seem to be able to more effectively prescribe coping methods that have proven effective and safe.

Outdoor companies Merrell and The North Face have both created immersive virtual reality programs that take their promotional marketing activities to new heights. The North Face enabled customers to don VR suits and technology, and then “depart” on virtual adventures like base jumping or mountain climbing. Merrell allowed customers to don their renowned hiking boots, strap on a virtual reality headset, and then embark on treks across mountain faces, all from the comfort of the retail store.

Another major player in the VR and AR field is the hospitality industry. Hotels and travel outfits have begun to wrap their heads around the potency and profitability of jumping into the virtual marketing space to boost interest in their destinations, properties, and travel-related amenities. Travel organization Destination British Columbia deployed a virtual reality experience which allowed users to feel the exhilaration of a boat ride in the picturesque countryside or experience a hike through Canada’s mountains firsthand.

Marriott Hotels takes it one step further and pairs individuals with what they call their “teleporter” – an enveloping piece of technology that combines a VR booth with an Oculus Rift headset to create the sensation of visiting travel destinations like London or Hawaii. They can even add artificial wind and heat to simulate a day at the beach.

Think Vegas is all about old-school casinos and smoky bars? Think again! The city’s Las Vegas app offers a VR experience that lets potential visitors experience such popular Vegas attractions as a gondola ride through the canals at the Venetian, or the thrilling zipline that takes you through the immersive Fremont Street Experience. Other companies, like YouVisit or Start VR, are partnering with both custodians of natural destinations and corporate hospitality groups to create VR experiences that are only second to experiencing the location first hand.

Virtual reality and augmented reality aren’t futuristic concepts that belong in the movies. Rather, both are being used today by sophisticated business leaders to increase the level of engagement among customers.

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