Virtual and augmented reality technologies are making a significant impact on our lives in terms of productivity, decision-making, entertainment, and training. But what is happening with extended reality (ER) and the metaverse vs virtual reality vs augmented reality technology? In this article we explore their similarities, differences, and potential impacts on our future.
- Virtual Reality Vs Augmented Reality – What Value Do These Extended Reality Experiences Offer?
- What Are The Technology Differences Between Virtual Reality Vs Augmented Reality?
- How Does User Experience Differ With Virtual Reality Vs Augmented Reality?
- How Does Metaverse Compare To Other Extended Reality Experiences?
Virtual Reality Vs Augmented Reality – What Value Do These Extended Reality Experiences Offer?
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) provide different experiences, but they both offer a way to extend reality (ER) and create an immersive experience. Specifically, virtual reality is a completely immersive experience that is generated by a computer, while augmented reality adds digital elements to the user’s environment. Here are some short definitions for augmented reality and virtual reality.
- Augmented Reality (AR) Definition. It augments your surroundings by adding digital elements to a live view, often by using the camera on a smartphone.
- Virtual Reality (VR). On the other hand, VR technology is a completely immersive experience that replaces a real-life environment with a simulated one.
A Short History of Extended Reality Technology (Pre-Metaverse).
Virtual Reality (VR) systems first emerged in the 1950s and 1960s in primitive forms, but began to gain traction in military applications in the 1980s. In 1993 Sega created a VR headset that was one of the first mainstream attempts to introduce the concept to the public. Also, in the 1990s AR branched off from VR to become more widely known. For example, in 1998 TV networks started adding a yellow line to football fields.
In the next decade, the tech industry started designing AR apps for the military such as for fighter jet cockpits. Also, software developers started to design AR apps for consumer use. For instance, users could use QR codes from magazines and products to trigger a 3D video on a consumer’s cell phone.
Both AR and VR Extend Our Experience of Reality, But For Different Reasons.
On the surface, especially in their primitive form, AR and VR reality are very similar. Now as these technologies quickly evolve it is becoming clear that each has very different use cases. Specifically, they both extend the reality of an user’s experience, but for different purposes. See below for a brief explanation of each purpose.
- The Purpose of Augmented Reality Technology. This technology blends virtual elements with real-world objects, creating an enhanced experience. Additionally, AR environments provide extra information about the real world, allowing users to interact with and gain insights from it.
- The Purpose of Virtual Reality Technology. This technology creates a life-sized 3D digital world that feels like you are part of it. In particular, it replaces real life with an immersive, simulated experience.
For more on how businesses can use augmented reality, see our article on Augmented Reality Technology: Is Your Business Missing Out?
“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.”Albert Einstein
What Are The Technology Differences Between Virtual Reality Vs Augmented Reality?
Virtual Reality technology uses a head-mounted display, such as a headset, to create an immersive experience. Furthermore, this display blocks out the real world and replaces it with a computer-generated one. On the other hand, augmented reality adds digital elements to the user’s environment. Additionally, this technology uses a smartphone or tablet to display the digital elements, which are often overlaid on the user’s real-world environment. To detail, below are the different types of technologies used by VR/AR technology
AR Technology Components.
AR technology needs more bandwidth than VR in order to provide a high quality augmented reality experience. Additionally, it does not require excessive input / output devices as it just augments reality, and does not create a whole virtual world. Lastly, the software focuses more on analytics versus an immersive experience. To list, see explanations for each major AR component.
- Input AR Devices. AR uses input devices to capture data from the user’s real environment. Specifically, this data can include audio, visual, and tactile input collected by sensors such as cameras, microphones, and touchscreens used to collect the data.
- AR Software. AR software includes image processing, positioning systems, 3D modeling, interactive and object recognition, 3D rendering, analytics, AI, and content management systems.
- Output AR Devices. Output devices include a variety of devices, including smartphones, smart glasses, and head-mounted displays. This also can include automotive head-up displays (HUD) and other emerging technologies. Furthermore, AR uses the output devices to provide audio and tactile feedback to the user. So these devices as well as any other features make the augmented reality experience more immersive. Also, AR uses depth sensing to display relevant information to the user
VR Technology Components.
VR technology needs less bandwidth than AR technology. Also, it does require elaborate input / output devices to enable the user to be fully immersed in the virtual world augments reality. Further, the software is focused on rendering an immersive experience for the user. To list, see the explanation below of each major VR component.
- Input VR Devices. These devices range from basic handheld controllers to highly advanced motion sensors, gyroscopes, and haptic feedback gloves. Further, the more the VR devices can engage all of the user’s senses the more immersive the experience. Obviously, these devices are essential for allowing users to interact with and manipulate objects in the virtual world.
- VR Software. This software includes motion tracking systems, spatial audio, gesture recognition, 3D graphics rendering, and image recognition, and AI. Again, this software is essential for creating immersive and engaging virtual experiences.
- Output VR Devices. This includes the headset or glasses, as well as any external displays or audio equipment used to bring the virtual world to life. Indeed, output devices are essential for VR to create an immersive and engaging virtual experience.
For more explanation on the AR/VR hardware and software, see Xrtoday’s Virtual Reality vs Augmented Reality, Geekflare’s Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality, and Splunk’s What Are Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality.
How Does User Experience Differ With Virtual Reality Vs Augmented Reality?
Virtual Reality provides an entirely immersive experience, while Augmented Reality adds digital elements to the user’s environment. In Virtual Reality, users can interact with the environment and the objects in it, while in Augmented Reality, users can interact with the digital elements that are overlaid on top of the real world.
AR and VR differ from each other as follows:
- Degree Of Immersiveness. VR creates an immersive virtual environment, while AR augments a real-world environment.
- Degree Of Virtualization. VR is 75 percent virtual, while AR is only 25 percent virtual.
- Amount Of Hardware Needed. Users of VR require a headset device, while AR does not.
- Amount Of Bandwidth Needed. AR requires higher bandwidth than VR.
- Enhance Reality Vs Replace It. AR enhances the real world. On the other hand, VR replaces the real world with a fictional reality.
See Teamviewer’s Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality for more on the differences with comparing AR/VR user experiences. Also, additional AR/VR references include Splunk’s What Are Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, and Cointelegraph’s Augmented Reality Vs Virtual Reality.
How Does Metaverse Compare To Other Extended Reality Experiences?
MetaVerse is a new type of extended reality experience that combines elements of both VR and AR. Basically, it allows users to explore virtual worlds in a way that is both immersive and interactive. Further, metaverse offers unique opportunities for social interaction, making it an ideal platform for gaming and other types of experiences. While still in its early stages, metaverse is promising technology that could revolutionize the way we experience virtual worlds.
What Is the Metaverse?
“The people are pieces of software called avatars. They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the metaverse.”Neal Stephenson, Sci-Fi Author
The term metaverse was first used in Snow Crash, a sci-fi novel by Neil Stephenson in 1992. Most recently, the metaverse is becoming a virtual digital environment which combines virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, and social media platforms. Further, it creates a space which mimics the real world and enhances user interaction. Besides Meta’s Metaverse, other emerging metaverses include Decentraland (MANA), Axie Infinity (AXS) and The Sandbox (SAND). Summing it up, I like this definition from BigThink’s There are two kinds of Metaverse. Only one will inherit the Earth
“A metaverse is a persistent and immersive simulated world that is experienced in the first person by large groups of simultaneous users who share a strong sense of mutual presence. It can be fully virtual and self-contained (a virtual metaverse) or it can exist as layers of virtual content overlaid on the real world (an augmented metaverse).“
The 6 Technologies That Make Up The Metaverse.
A Metaverse is an extended reality (ER). Specifically, it extends the user’s experience leveraging many more technologies than just virtual reality or augmented reality technology. To detail, below are the 6 major types of technology that make up a metaverse.
1. Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality.
Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are the base technologies that make up the metaverse. In particular, AR and VR allow users to immerse themselves in a digital 3D environment, interact with virtual objects, and experience a simulated environment or world.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI).
In the metaverse, the ER metaverse platform uses AI to create realistic virtual avatars, respond to user commands, and provide interactive experiences. For example, a metaverse can have Non-Playing Characters (NPCs) which are autonomous to some extent and interact with users. Additionally, the metaverse can use AI for image classification, facial recognition, and high-end computer imaging and refinement to add realistic effects for graphics.
3. Social Media Applications.
Social media platforms are an integral part of the metaverse. Specifically, social media allows users to connect and communicate with each other, share content, and express themselves. Additionally, popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter could be used in the metaverse to create virtual communities and support user interaction.
4. Multi-Channel Communications.
Multi-channel communication is an important part of the metaverse. Specifically, it allows users to communicate with each other using different platforms, such as text, video, audio, and 3D virtual reality. This type of communication is essential for creating a seamless user experience in the metaverse.
5. Internet of Things (IoT).
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and connectivity that enable these objects to collect and exchange data. In the metaverse, the IoT is used to connect users with each other and their physical environment.
6. Blockchain & Cryptocurrency.
Blockchain is a distributed digital ledger technology that is used to record transactions and securely store data. In addition, cryptocurrency is a digital currency that uses blockchain technology to facilitate secure transactions. Specifically, a metaverse platform uses blockchain and cryptocurrency to create secure digital economies and facilitate real-world transactions.
See Appinventiv’s What Is Metaverse? for an explanation of metaverse technologies.
The Future of Metaverse and Extended Reality Experiences?
Extended reality technology is continuing to evolve and will have a profound effect on our lives over time. However, with Meta introducing their metaverse there is controversy on how this ER technology will impact us in the future. For example some think, such as Mark Zuckerberg, that the Metaverse is the future of society. Others are not impressed in that they do not believe we humans are just going to completely escape our current world for a virtual world.
As an example, quotes below exemplify different perspectives on the future of the Metaverse.
“I don’t see someone strapping a frigging screen to their face all day.”Elon Musk
“Metaverse isn’t a thing a company builds. It’s the next chapter of the internet overall.”Mark Zuckerberg, Meta.
In terms of VR vs AR, there is a compelling case that metaverse technology will revolutionize our lives by augmenting our reality. Specifically, this is because metaverse’s extended reality technology can transform the internet into a 3D-type of experience. Additionally, a metaverse is further merging the real and virtual worlds to provide a single immersive and unified, extended reality for us. In particular with a metaverse, our interactions will become more user-centered and seamless versus app-centered. As a result, AR hardware and software will become the dominant platform, overshadowing phones and desktops in our lives.
On the other hand, it is doubtful that a complete virtual metaverse will be our future. This is because from what I can see, a completely virtual world will have limited utility as there is not really a compelling reason for most of us to completely abandon our physical world. For a more detailed discussion on the future of the Metaverse, see BigThink’s There are two kinds of Metaverse. Only one will inherit the Earth.
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