AR Vs VR: Difference Between Augmented Vs Virtual Reality

This AR vs VR tutorial explains the differences and similarities between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality along with benefits and challenges:

Augmented reality and virtual reality are two confusing terminologies because they share several similarities, but also differ in one way or another. For those interested in playing VR and AR experiences on their smartphones, PCs, tablets, and VR headsets, there are games, movies, and other 3D content enough for your exploration with VR and AR.

Companies and developers are adopting AR or VR or both in marketing, education, training, remote assistance, exercising, remote diagnosis of patients, gaming, entertainment, and many other fields. However, some may be unsure of which one to pursue. This tutorial provides a side-by-side comparison of the two to help you choose.

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality

This tutorial dwells on answering the question of what is the difference between AR and VR, and the similarities between the two. We will look at the benefits, challenges of AR vs VR, and also extend to provide the answer to the question of what may be better in your scenarios as a developer or company.

Augmented Reality And Virtual Reality Defined

AR and VR defined

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We have already discussed virtual reality in depth. It is the experiencing of digital 3D content on devices such as the virtual reality headsets. The motive is to immerse yourself in the life-size digital 3D content–most of which replicate the real-world, although can be of imaginary objects. Immersion means having the feeling as though you are part of the digital environments you are looking at.

It also means interacting with the digital content and the virtual 3D life-size objects as you would in the real-world.

Ideally, you are browsing and navigating through a computer-generated and imaginary virtual world. It will appear as though you are present in doing the things that require to be done there as you would, naturally.

On the other hand, Augmented reality is an augmented representation of the real-world. The real-world is augmented by laying 3D virtual images on top of the real-world environments or scenes as seen by the user. The user sees, in front of him or her, the virtual images or holograms being part of their real-world environments.

The user can also interact with the holograms, as the user would do in the real world.

Also read =>> Latest applications of Augmented Reality

The below example shows AR Pokemon on a smartphone:

AR Pokemon

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Mixed reality is a reality in which computer-generated 3D virtual world and objects are interacting with real-world objects in the final scene enjoyed by the user.

Extended reality refers to the form of reality in which various technologies are enhancing the user’s senses. This is, for instance, providing additional information about the actual world or creating unreal virtual experiences. It includes all the above three technologies.

Here is a video on AR, VR, and MR:

Suggested read =>> Best Augmented Reality Companies

AR vs VR Comparison


Augmented Reality Virtual reality
Overlying of 3D virtual digital content on real world to augment the latter. Replacement of real world with 3D virtual world.
AR system detects markers and user locations and system calls on pre-defined content to be overlaid. VRML creates an interactive sequence of audio, animations, videos, and URLs
AR content overlaid on detected marker or user locations. No need for markers and user location detection to present 3D content.
Higher bandwidth for top quality experiences – upward of 100 mbps to streamLower bandwidth requirement – at least 25 mbps to stream.
Best suitable when the app must capture user’s environments. Best suitable when the app should give full immersion.


Augmented Reality Virtual reality
3D content required3D content required.
AR headset required and in some cases not mustVR headset required but in some cases not a must
Magnified, life-sized objectsMagnified, life-sized objects
Smartphone, AR headsets, PCs, tablets, iPads, lens, controllers, accessories, usedSmartphone, VR headsets, PCs, tablets, iPads, lens, controllers, accessories, used
Hand, eye, finger, body tracking, and notion tracking on advanced AR headsetsHand, eye, finger, body tracking, and motion tracking on advanced VR headsets
Offers immersion to user.Offers immersion to user.
Skillset: 3D modeling or scanning, 3D games engines, 360 degrees photos, and videos, some maths and geometry, programming languages, C++ or C#, software development kits, etc.Skillset: 3D modeling or scanning, 3D games engines, 360 degrees photos, and videos, some maths and geometry, programming languages, C++ or C#, software development kits, etc.

AR and VR diffences similarity

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Application Of VR vs AR

VR apps allow you to immerse in a computer-generated virtual and imaginary world but Augmented Reality apps allow you to do location-sensitive, interesting things in your location. AR, for instance, would allow you to get suggestions for hotels you can visit for the menus you like. Another example is getting directions to locations or stats about speed and heart rates and others on your screen while driving or practicing.

Getting remote assistance on your devices in 3D, playing AR games, and taking pictures with life-sized objects and 3D holograms and animations in your preferred locations are some more examples.

Here is a video on Example of AR Application:

Advantages And Disadvantages

Advantages of VR:

  • Virtual reality is more immersive than AR if you were looking at the benefits of immersion and a virtual sense of presence.
  • Multiple applications.
  • Lower bandwidth requirement than AR for streaming 360 degrees res videos, Retina-quality videos, and 4K resolution.

Recommended Reading => Explore the Key Differences Between WebAR vs Native AR

Disadvantages of VR:

  • Current limitations of the user to produce 3D and devices for that, as well as devices that play or support this, especially in real-time.
  • Costly to produce content and maintain editing in fully immersive experiences since full replication of real-world objects is required.
  • Need for extensive cloud storage space because one requires developing a vast amount of virtual objects.

Advantages of AR:

  • AR provides more freedom for the user and more possibilities for marketers because there doesn’t have to be a head-mounted display.
  • AR is better in market potential than VR and is growing at a faster rate in the recent past as large brands start to implement.
  • Multiple applications.
  • AR is less affected by device limitations. However, there is still a requirement to create high resolution and life-like objects.

Disadvantages of AR:

  • Current limitations of the user to produce 3D and devices for that, as well as devices that play or support this, especially in real-time.
  • Lesser immersion than VR.
  • Low adoption and application in day-to-day uses.

In terms of market penetration, AR vs VR is an interesting concern. Both are early in their application stages and have huge potential. Most AR and VR is well pronounced in gaming and entertainment, but we are seeing adoption in other industries.

Difference Between VR And AR

VR, AR, MR differences

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#1) Replacing reality versus adding reality to real-world environments.

User is blocked from their real environment to do interesting things in VR. In the below image, a researcher from the European Space Agency in Darmstadt demos how astronauts might use virtual reality in the future to train to extinguish a fire inside a lunar habitat.

Replacing reality versus adding reality onto real-world environments

An important difference between AR and VR is that while VR attempts to replace all the reality up to full immersion, AR tends to add the virtual by projecting digital information on top of what the user is already seeing.

Partial immersion is possible in VR, where the user is not totally blocked from the real-world. Real full immersion is difficult because simulating all the human senses and actions is one thing impossible.

Since VR tends towards total immersion, devices require shutting the user from the real-world, for instance, by blocking their vision or field of view to present VR content instead. But that’s only the start of immersion because there are over five senses to worry about. However, VR systems sometimes have room tracking, and user position and motion tracking, in which they would allow a user to roam around and walk in a given space.

#2) Projected revenue share is different: VR vs AR growth

The projected revenue share for VR was $150 billion this year compared AR’s projection of $30 billion. This may not answer the question of what is the difference between AR and VR but it shows the pace of growth is different between the two.

#3) Differences in the way the two work

The Virtual Reality Modeling Language or VRML experiences create an interactive sequence of audio, animations, videos, and URLs that can be fetched by an app, client, or web browser to simulate virtual environments.

With AR, the AR platform detects markers (normally a barcode) or user location, and this will trigger the AR animations. The AR software will then deliver animations to the markers or detected user locations.

#4) Bandwidth requirement: AR requires more

Based on market research, VR requires 400 Mbps and above to stream VR 360 degrees videos, which is 100 times the current HD video services. 4K resolution quality would need about 500 Mbps and above on a VR headset. Low resolutions of 360 degrees VR require at least 25 Mbps to stream.

AR applications require at least 100 Mbps and the lower of 1 ms delay. Although AR requires at least 25 Mbps for low res 360 degrees video, higher quality mobile 360 degrees do not deliver anywhere near the 360 degrees camera-level dynamic range and resolution. The bitrate increases with an advance in mobile display technology. For VR, HD TV level resolution requires 80-100 Mbps.

In VR, you require 600 Mbps for retinal quality 360 degrees video experiences. AR requires hundreds to several gigabytes per second to stream fully immersive retina quality 360 degrees on the mobile experience.

The below image shows the recommended bandwidth requirements for Netflix and iPlayer. Playing normal videos requires a much lower bandwidth.

Bandwidth requirement; AR requires more

#5) Utilization in smartphones is more pronounced in AR

It is possible to use AR on 2D and 3D environments very easily, such as on a mobile phone. In such a case, the smartphone is used to overlay digital items on a real-world space. In VR, the only way of browsing 3D content on a smartphone without a headset is 2D and one does not experience any immersion. Hence, it is explored best with a VR headset.

VR use is not so much pronounced in mobile phones and tablets, but PCs.

#6) Different platforms for developing apps

Applications targeted at smartphones, PCs, and other devices and platforms are commonplace for AR and VR. However, developing AR apps is not the same as developing VR apps. In cases where you would need to develop 3D content, the platforms are similar. Experiences may be different from the app itself.

Otherwise, if you needed to develop AR vs VR in the same platform, you would still require different software development kits for AR and VR apps. That’s because the AR SDK allows you to provide the capability for the app to detect and capture real-time user environments. After this detection, they overlay pre-loaded 3D content over those captured environments.

The last part is to then generate the final view and to allow the user to navigate and to interact with them if it is mixed reality.

VR SDK is about enabling the app stream pre-loaded or cloud-stored scenes and allowing the user to navigate them with things like controllers. Navigation and controlling of the environment are through user and environment tracking which is made possible through sensors, haptics, and cameras, etc.

For AR, platforms for developing apps include Vuforia, ARKit, ARCore, Wikitude, ARToolKit, and Spark AR Studio. We also have Amazon Sumerian, HoloLens Sphere, Smart Reality, DAQRI Worksense, and ZapWorks. Others are Blippbuilder, Spark AR Studio, HP Reveal, Augmentir, and Easy AR.

Most of these combine VR developments with AR except a few including ARKit and ARCore. Some VR app development kits are exclusively for developing VR.

#7) When you should choose to develop AR or VR apps

Refer to the factors below:

  • The application will define what to choose whether AR or VR app.
  • If you need to offer full immersion, VR is the best choice. If you want the app to capture user’s environments in any way, then AR is the best choice.
  • AR is best when your users expect a true-to-life, but VR is best when they need a representation of real-life conditions.
  • Usability difficulties due to AR apps requiring to capture scenes in real-time. For instance, problematic variables, in this case, including when the digital overlays may not be visible in AR once the overlay is done because it is dark and the camera cannot offer lighting help. Another problematic variable scenario is the phone being out of GPS coverage, which would mean it cannot capture the user’s real-time environments, etc. VR apps do not present this problem because they do not capture real-time footage.
  • VR apps are more complex to develop than AR apps. You must generate a vast amount of real-world representations, and your virtual representation in VR may need to change too if real-world objects and scenes simulated have changed.
  • The cost factor–Augmented reality apps are much more applicable if and when you want to replicate real-world scenes regardless of changes because they capture scenes in real-time before augmenting. You also develop a limited number of digital elements. VR is too demanding because you develop all real-world scenes in 3D, which is more costly to develop and maintain.

Similarities Between VR And AR

#1) Both offer immersion

VR and AR both use 3D content and holograms and leave or target to leave the user feeling they are part of the generated 3D environments.

In this case, the three most important aspects for full immersion include one, the sense of presence. This is created by generating, using magnifying lens or other light modification methods, 3D life-sized virtual environments with depth which may mimic the real-world.

Second is the ability to navigate through the VR or AR worlds, or the ability to interact with and control the virtual objects and environments. The user, for instance may be able to move them around, walk around them, etc. Third, using haptics and sensory perceptions where the user’s visual, taste, hearing, smelling, touch, and other senses are simulated in the virtual worlds.

#2) 3D or virtual content in both

In both cases, AR and VR, virtual images are employed to either enrich real-world environments in AR or to replace real-world environments in VR.

#3) Gadgets utilized are the same

AR and VR employ the same tactics in position, and motion tracking technologies, machine vision, cameras, sensors, haptics devices, controllers, the lens, etc. In both cases, even when talking about VR and AR headsets, we have seen the use of smartphones or computers used to process 3D images.

Cameras and sensors are employed for tracking. Sensors and computer vision may sense the environment of the user or track their position in relation to other objects in the environment. Cameras can be used to take images.

Controllers are employed in both AR and VR for scrolling, browsing, or navigating the 3d content.

Lenses are used to relay information either by diffracting light to create virtual environments or to magnify virtual objects into life-sized virtual objects. In AR, they are used to overlay virtual 3D life-sized images onto real-world scenes.

#4) Both are applied in diverse industries in equal measure

Applications of AR:

Applications of AR

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There are so many similarities between AR vs VR. We use both, though in different ways, in gaming, health, entertainment, education, social areas, training, architecture, design, maintenance, and many other fields.

In mixed reality, users can interact with virtual objects and these, through the power of gesture, gaze, voice recognition, and motion controllers, the virtual objects can also respond to users.

VR Applications:

VR applications

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#5) Near similar methods of producing VR and AR content

AR and VR are supported on smartphones, PCs, tablets, iOS, Mac OS, and Linux devices. However, development platforms are very separate and different.

VR content is developed starting with filming using virtual reality cameras. This film or video or image can then be taken to a software that allows for enhancement or sealing of weaknesses. Editing may be done by enhancing captured scenes or by removing and adding more content, or by integrating with other images and videos to make a better final simulation.

This simulation is then hosted on a cloud or device to be accessed remotely and played by a user with a VR-capable device.

VR content can also be generated with a computer from scratch, for instance, by converting 2D to 3D content using VR converter software.

Suggested reading =>> Biggest VR Content Comapnies

Imaging devices such as a camera can be used for creating the VR content in real-time, on headsets. This is when VR is being applied for navigation or demo. But this can’t be edited in real-time. In this case, the user is exploring or viewing previously created or generated VR content.

At the same time, the headset is tracking their position and movement in real-time to allow the user to roam around the room or space, freely.

AR content is largely generated in real-time when using the AR device, mainly using computer vision, camera, and other imaging devices. Some content such as a 3D marker and other 3D digital content may be pre-uploaded in the app. This would allow the device to search and detect it when determining where to overlay virtual pre-generated content on the real-world scene.

#6) Similarities in the skills set for developers: 

To develop apps in AR and VR, you would require nearly the same skill-set. These include 3D modeling or scanning, 3D games engines, 360 degrees photos, and videos, some maths and geometry, programming languages, C++ or C#, and software development kits, etc.

If you were to develop AR or VR experiences apps on PC, then you would require nearly similar device specifications for both. An example is Intel Core i5 PC with 4590 or AMD FX 8350; NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU cards.


This tutorial answers the question of what is the difference between AR and VR.

The major difference is that AR is about overlaying digital content such as 3D holograms and animations and data such as travel and exercising statistics on or over real-time user environments. It may or may not allow the user to interact and control the resulting environments of mixed reality.

VR is about replacing real-world environments with virtual ones and immersing the user in and allowing the user to control and manipulate that computer-generated environment. Both AR and VR are used in equal measure in gaming, education, health, and employee and other kinds of training, etc.

VR apps mainly need not capture real-world user environments like AR apps. However, VR systems can allow real-time navigation of real-world environments, if the headsets have user or room tracking.

Also Read =>> Top 10 Best VR Apps