Let me Explain: How does Virtual Reality Work vs. Augmented Reality?

How Does Virtual Reality really Work Compared to Augmented Reality?

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Looking around today we see our real world heavily mixed with the virtuality: and not only in terms of entertainment. The virtual objects and environments have grown an essential part of our everyday life and business processes turning as real as the sunlight behind your window.

The cutting-edge technologies are capable of improving the most various areas and industries and this would be unreasonable to ignore the promising possibilities.

According to Statista forecast, the augmented and virtual reality market size is expected to reach 27 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 (compare with 14.1 billion in 2017) and 209.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2022.

Starting from gaming and filming, application of VR and AR has been extending to other to fields as education, medicine, manufacture, social media, tourism, marketing, etc. The results already achieved really impress.

Curious to learn, but not sure to be quite good at the distinction between VR and AR terms?  

We are pleased to guide you step-by-step through the complete range from the natural world to the virtual environment, or through the virtuality continuum.

Real Life As It Is


The first point is a real natural world - that is the one we love and live in. The world of our everyday smiles and concerns, global events, and friendly get-togethers. Things and the environment we can touch, smell, feel and interact with without using any equipment required.

The moments we experience in the real life are not repeatable or reproducible. This is the key feature that makes our reality quite special. We are here and now.  Whether these emotions are touching, funny or absolutely crazy, we shall appreciate them. With this in mind we cannot but mention Lifelapse app that helps us to catch the best moments (or to set them in motion).


Immersive Experience with Virtual Reality


The next destination point is the Virtual Reality (VR). Things are completely unreal there: predesigned, preprogrammed and predictable (as soon as you are aware of the general idea). The VR world never meets the real one. That is you who are invited to interact with the virtual environment. It brings you outside of your time and state of life.

To interact with the virtual environment the user needs special equipment: headsets or goggles connected to PC/mobile device running VR apps and controllers. Taking into account that the VR user does not see real objects, in some cases, space around needs to be adequately equipped to assure the safety.

Creating VR apps require special skills and experience. Along with knowledge of 3D tools and SDKs, the developers need to follow the specific UI/UX principles. VR shall have not only a convincing look but sound and movement as well. Every detail needs to be thoroughly elaborated by designers and developers to make the app absolutely friendly for users.

To confirm that VR can successfully be used for other than mere entertainment purposes let’s check, for example, the area most critical for the human life  - medicine.

VR serves as an engaging and motivation solution to limitations during physical and neuro-rehabilitation. VR experience helps to reduce stress and pain immersing the patients into the world where their mind is taken off of the sufferings. In general, VR is especially helpful to smooth over hospitalization period, especially for children.


Happy Place offers a virtual space for the user to escape from reality into the exciting camping environment. Happy Place was developed based on research of VR as a tool for pain mitigation.

Mixed Reality Upon Closer View


From two extremes we switch to the in-between area.

This is referred to as the mixed reality and covers the augmented reality and the augmented virtuality. Whatever complicated it may sound, the difference is evident from the above figure.

Augmented Reality

The augmented reality lies closer to the real environment meaning it is still the physical world but enhanced with virtual objects.

As for hardware, required are processor, display, sensors and input devices. Due to accelerometers, gyroscopes, GPS, magnetic sensors, and cameras available the modern smartphones and tablet computers may be used as AR platforms.

With the sets of software development tools from two major market players: ARKit (Apple) and ARCore (Google) the developers have got the room for implementing the smartest ideas into reality with relatively low time and efforts expenditures.

Augmented Virtuality

Can you guess?  The position is closer to VR, but still in the MR area: the virtual world with the integrated real objects. Bingo!

AV requires powerful hardware and software as the input from various sensors has to be processed and channeled to virtuality where the physical object interacts with the virtual environment in real-time.

The mixed reality possibilities among others are widely used in marketing and social media as means to attract consumers and keep them engaged.


Engine Creative in partnership with Aurasma and Top Gear created the first fully augmented magazine in the world.

“We have had tens of thousands of video views. Research has shown us that 50% of our readership has access to smartphones and one in four of those [27%] engaged with the video content, and that was just from the first two editions.” Publisher, Top Gear Magazine.

Bottom Line

VR and AR application open numerous possibilities, and lots of companies have already started their journey into the augmented and virtual world. The most we can do is to progress along with the global changes. Implementing VR or AR experience and objects into your products will require definite time and efforts, but any challenge exists to be overcome, doesn’t it?

Need an experienced developers team to create a VR/AR app? Contact Umbrella IT team right now!