Augmented Reality (AR) Vs. Virtual Reality (VR): What’s The Difference—And How Do They Work

Here’s a rundown on the differences between virtual reality and augmented reality and the popular uses of each.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Meta Quest 3 on Thursday, the company’s next virtual reality headset that promises higher quality resolution and displays, days before Apple is expected to announce their VR headset.

The global market size for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is expected to reach $297 billion by 2024, roughly ten times the $30.7 billion market size in 2021, Statistica predicts.

Between 2021 and 2028, the VR compound annual growth rate is expected to rise by 28% each year, with oil, gas and manufacturing industries being the main drivers according to a Grand View Research report.

In 2022, 14.94 million AR and VR devices were shipped out, a 54.9% increase from 2021’s 9.69 million, according to the International Data Corporation.

Augmented reality is designed to superimpose digital elements onto the real world. It uses sensors to understand the world around it. With a combination of GPS, gyroscopes (a device that tells when a moving object switches directions) and accelerometers (a sensor typically in phones that measures the acceleration of the device), AR apps can figure out where a user is and what direction they’re facing. One of the most popular examples of AR is the Pokemon Go phone app, which allows players to locate and collect Pokemon characters that pop up in the real world, like in the park, in the living room or on the sidewalk. TikTok even got in on the action when the company released its AR filters via their software called Effect House. This software allows creators to make filters that immerse users into worlds like a European art museum, or even walk around with the popular “Shrek in the Sky” filter. There are other popular uses of AR in everyday life, like furniture companies like Ikea allowing customers to superimpose furniture into their homes to decide if they like how it looks, neurosurgeons using an AR scan of of a brain to guide them through surgery and broadcasters during football games using AR to draw lines on the field to analyze plays.

Unlike AR, virtual reality is an immersive experience that isolates users from the real world, usually with the help of a headset and headphones to help. All five senses are also able to be incorporated. Instead of incorporating things into the real world, it replaces the real world and places users in completely new worlds. The technology allows users to use computer automation for a three-dimensional experience. VR combines hardware, like headsets, controllers and treadmills and software, like game engines, content management and training simulators to create the full experience. The two main features of VR are immersion, which works by canceling out the physical world and fully placing users in the virtual world, and interaction which elevates the immersion experience by allowing users to control elements. Several fields have incorporated VR, like retail, which allows users to try on clothes, accessories or even a new haircut. VR in this industry is expected to grow by around $18 billion by 2028. The automotive industry also uses VR, with companies like Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Tesla using the technology to build virtual showrooms. The global automotive VR industry is predicted to grow to $54 billion by 2026.

Meta Launches Newest Virtual Reality Headset Just Ahead Of Apple (Forbes)

How Mercedes-Benz Uses Virtual And Augmented Reality To Sell Cars, Train Staff, And Create New Customer Experiences (Forbes)