Overview of Augmented and Virtual Reality

Learning Objective

Describe the wide range of AR and VR learning experiences possible with existing software and hardware.

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality

When you think of someone wearing a headset to experience another world, you’re thinking of virtual reality. Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive experience of a computer-generated world. The user’s perspective changes as they move their head. Virtual Reality experiences include both non-interactive and interactive experiences.

woman experiencing vr

Figure 1 – Woman experiencing virtual reality (Image credit: Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

Augmented Reality (AR) is non-immersive. It is a digital overlay imposed over the real world. No headset is required for AR. Instead, AR is viewed using smartphones or tablets. Computer-generated images appear to inserted into the real world by using the device’s camera. They might float in midair or be “fixed” to a nearby surface so that the user can view multiple sides of 3D objects.

a preview of a new tech campus in AR

Figure 2 – An architectural rendering of a new tech campus is viewed using Augmented Reality

For more on the differences between VR and AR, watch this short video:

AR and VR in Action

Compare the following two experiences. In the first video, artists use virtual reality to “paint” in 3D using the app Tiltbrush, a headset, and hand controllers.

In this second video, shoppers can preview what new fixtures furniture might look like in their own homes using the augmented reality apps on smartphones and tablets from interior design retailer Houzz and furniture retailer Wayfair.

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