Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Yesterday I had the opportunity to discuss two related but different emerging trends with a couple of colleagues. 1) Augmented Reality and 2) Virtual Reality.  I thought I would put together a short post on both of them here.

These are two very interesting trends that, while not new, are both moving steadily along the adoption curve. As enabling technologies for both of these gets better, cheaper, and smaller and more ubiquitous, we will see both AR and VR begin to take off, both in the consumer and in business markets.  I believe a fully functional Internet of Things will be an important catalyst for both AR and VR adoption.

But what are these two technologies and how do they differ?

For Augmented Reality….the way I think of it is when you are having a computing device help you understand what you are looking at right now, that is Augmented Reality. So if you happen to be at Liberty Island in New York and point your mobile phone at the statue in front of you, your AR app on your phone might provide you with all the information you might want about the Statue of Liberty, including the time the next ferry leaves the island. Augmented Reality apps help you understand your current environment/location.

On the other hand, Virtual Reality is where the device you are using provides you with a simulated version of reality. Typically the user wears goggles or helmet of some sort and is immersed into a visual application.  The technology is increasingly being used by gamers to help transport them into a virtual gaming world.  The technology in effect, makes you feel like you are looking through a video camera lens into a virtual world.  So, lets say you are in Chicago and you want to “visit” Tokyo.  Instead of flying there, you can just put on your VR goggles and you can visit Tokyo virtually.

The question on business leader’s minds though is how could this technology be used in business applications?  For AR, I think there are going to be many, many applications. Wherever there is glass or a display…or could be glass or a display… there is a potential AR application.   For VR, I believe there will be important uses in the area of simulation to improve products, services and business processes.

Interested in more reading on these topics?

Here are some links to help you understand Augmented Reality

  • Wikipedia is always a good place to start.  See the Augmented Reality article.
  • Corning Glass has done a fantastic job to provide us with some scenarios of how Augmented Reality applications might fit into our daily life.
  • Panasonic has done some interesting work Augmented Reality mirrors
  • DHL is looking to use AR to help them with logistics:
  • Automobile Windshields of the future will display information that help us navigate our trips of the future. Here’s an article from Popular Science and here is one from the Wall Street Journal.

And here are some Virtual Reality links

The “reality” is that both these technologies will see gradual adoption in both consumer and business markets.  The key to the adoption cycle is always application use cases.  I have a feeling that these both will begin to take off as soon as the adoption of Internet of Things sensor networks begin to mature.