AR vs VR - What's the Difference?

Last updated: 10/30/2023
7 minutes read

"AR vs VR" would have meant nothing to someone living a mere ten years ago. Now, the battle between the two mediums is one of the hottest topics in the entertainment industry. Augmented reality and virtual reality are expected to be two game-changing platforms in the years ahead, with projections suggesting the combined market could be worth $451.5 billion.

Which will be the bigger technology in the AR vs VR battle? Which side of the fence do you sit on? If you don’t know the answers to those questions yet, or simply want to understand better, read on.

Before we start to debate AR vs VR, it’s important to define what the technologies are.

Definition of AR

AR stands for augmented reality, which happens when a digitalized image is projected onto the real world. Pokémon Go was a prime example of an AR game, and the 2016 offering from Niantic helped to push the technology into the mainstream. In the hugely popular title, players could hold up their phone screens and see the famous Japanese monsters superimposed on their everyday surroundings. Players could battle each other in a 1v1 situation as well.

AR glasses

AR is already being used in a range of industries, but the most common way to access it is through a phone screen. Soon, though, it’s expected that AR glasses will go mainstream. That will open a whole world of new possibilities, with users potentially able to witness complex things in front of them. If you’ve seen Tony Stark playfully move digitalized images in front of his eyes, that’s how AR could one day look. This could be the next stage for computers, and users may not need to look at digital content through traditional screens in the future.

It's also important to note the difference between AR and ARG games. ARG stands for alternate reality game, and these are niche offerings that combine elements of digitalization alongside real-world aspects. For instance, players may solve puzzles in the real world that take them to websites with further clues to solve.

Definition of VR

In the AR vs VR debate, VR is a different beast to AR. VR exists solely in a virtual world and doesn’t include any elements of the real world. When you use VR, you put on a headset and get transported to a digitalized landscape. This could be a fantasy world, or it could be a real-world experience that has been recorded for VR headset wearers to enjoy.

Is VR better than AR?

There has been a vast amount of investment in VR, with Meta putting billions into its development. Mark Zuckerberg claimed to believe that more than one billion people could be living in the metaverse by 2030 – a sprawling virtual world where users can socialize, work, and play. In addition to that, VR games are on the rise. PlayStation already has its own VR offerings, and these are going to get more detailed and advanced as the technology improves.

AR vs VR - Similarities

AR vs VR isn’t always going to be a battle for supremacy. It’s more likely that the two mediums will help push each other on and into the mainstream. They have plenty of similarities – AR users are likely to be interested in VR and vice versa.

You can probably guess the similarities in the AR vs VR debate, but here are a few key ones that you should take note of:

  • Both technologies aim to offer immersive experiences in which users are plunged into digital environments. AR may exist in the real world, but there’s no doubt that AR enhances people’s perceptions of their surroundings. The Walking Dead: Our World, for instance, puts them at the center of a zombie apocalypse.
  • AR and VR both use digital interaction and similar hardware. In the future, both technologies will require users to wear headsets or glasses.
  • AR and VR are both subject to insanely fast technological advances. You’d better be ready to witness exponential growth with this hardware over the next few years.
  • Both contenders in the VR vs AR war encourage advanced content creation and could lead to a new way of sharing online. There are loads of innovative ways to use these technologies, and people who jump on them early should find great success.

AR vs VR – Differences

There are obviously plenty of similarities between the two mediums in the AR vs VR debate. However, you could argue that there are more differences between the two. Despite their destinies being intertwined, they are their own separate entities, and one could easily exist without the other.

The main difference between AR and VR is the fact that the former exists in the real world, while the latter takes place in a computer-generated world. AR enhances the real world with digital objects, while VR aims to disconnect users from the real world and transport them to new locations. Expanding upon that point, AR allows users to interact with real-world objects, while VR involves moving around virtual objects.

There are already some differences in the hardware between AR and VR, and these are likely to get bigger as the technologies progress. VR headsets are clunkier and cover more of the user’s head, while AR glasses are smaller and less awkward. AR could easily become integrated into simple glasses in the future, and maybe one day even contact lenses. It’s hard to imagine the same thing happening with VR headsets.

VR means complete immersion

There’s a chance that AR and VR will serve different purposes in the future, with gaming likely to blow up on one or the other. VR could be the best option for gaming, while AR may be used for more practical cases such as navigation assistance and medical visualization. Right now, VR games are pretty simple. There are basic worlds to explore along with some other mixed genres such as roguelite titles. These offerings are only going to get bigger and better and will one day be as rich and detailed as console games.

VR and AR will both offer users ways of interacting, but the way they do so will differ greatly. Mark Zuckerberg is envisioning a sprawling VR world for people to socialize, which will transcend traditional chat rooms. AR encourages face-to-face meetups when users bond over shared experiences, such as Pokémon Go.


Which is Better: AR vs VR?

There's one fundamental problem regarding this debate, since that’s a seriously subjective question. Some people are going to prefer AR, while others will veer towards VR. There’s no right or wrong answer here!

Is Oculus a VR or AR Device?

You may have heard of the Oculus range of headsets. These are VR devices, and they are leading the way in development as it stands. Oculus Studios is owned by Meta, who have invested heavily in its progression.

These devices have the potential to be ubiquitous in the future, especially when the metaverse comes to fruition. Thanks to the constant development and release of new generations, Oculus devices are now reasonably priced, and offer the best gateway for people who want to experience VR.

What is an Example of AR?

If you’re looking for an example of AR, there are plenty of options to choose from on mobile. The great thing about AR is that you don’t need to buy glasses to use it – although the headsets doubtlessly enhance the experience tenfold. Some of the most popular AR games on the market include Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs, Five Nights at Freddy’s AR, and Jurassic World Alive.

AR vs VR vs MR

AR vs VR may not be the only battle in the future, as there’s also the concept of MR. This stands for Mixed Reality and is a combination of AR and VR. It seems that Apple is focusing on MR with its Pro Vision device. This headset will allow for VR and AR experiences and could have a huge impact on the overall industry.

AR vs VR – Which Will You Choose?

After reading this guide to the heated AR vs VR battle, which technology are you leaning toward? Do you feel like you have more of an affinity to AR or VR? Perhaps you’re interested in testing them both. Whatever you decide to try out first, we’re sure you’ll have a highly enjoyable and immersive experience!