Keeping It Real: Augmented Versus Virtual Reality

June 13, 2022

If you struggle to understand the difference between augmented and virtual reality, here’s a hint: augmented reality (AR) is the “real” one.

AR is the technology that marries your real, everyday life to external digital elements, creating an enhanced version of reality. Think Snapchat, and using a filter to edit a friend’s face into an animal. The friend is real, but the augmentation creates an alternate version of their ‘reality.’

The same technology is at work when you view a museum exhibit wearing special glasses that permit you to watch short video clips that enhance your understanding of the subject matter. And if you are a sports fan, you have come to expect TV commentators to use ‘felt-tip markers’ to draw plays right on the screen, atop video, to help you understand what you just witnessed.

Augmented reality frequently requires the use of supporting devices, be they phones, glasses, or applications. As a technology, it has been around since 1968, but really caught the public’s imagination in 2016 with the introduction of Pokemon Go (a pastime that was once so popular at Capitol Tech, it got its own mention in our campus Visitor Policy). Suddenly, people could access AR through a familiar, convenient medium—their mobile phone.

Today, although AR continues to manifest in a variety of consumer and business operations, it is widely conceded that its hardware remains behind the curve. Phones can only carry the concept so far, and wearables (such as headsets), which could energize the technology’s reach and spread, have yet to catch on significantly.

Which brings us to virtual reality (VR), the OTHER reality.

Virtual reality, to date, almost always requires the use of headsets. Yes, the exact same accessory which limits the growth and development of augmented reality, is a necessity for experiencing virtual reality.

The reason this conundrum can exist is because users of augmented reality tend to be everyday people looking to invigorate their everyday life experiences. A headset is ‘overkill’ for their purposes.

Virtual reality (VR) aficionados, on the other hand, are seeking total immersion into another reality, and are willing to adopt whatever technology is required to get them there. Headsets, external wiring, gloves, full-body ensembles—nothing is too onerous if it assists in transporting these users into other worlds.

By employing cutting edge VR technology, users can see, hear, feel, and even taste completely artificial sensory stimulations. VR is frequently an all-encompassing environment, in which reality is bypassed in favor of an entirely digital simulation.

And these simulations can be realistic, indeed. Many people are familiar with VR through experiences with video games. Early reality headsets were first released in the mid-1990s, but next-generation commercial versions marketed in the 2010s caused an explosion of interest in the technology. Manufacturers vigorously competed to bring PlayStation, the Oculus Rift, and Vive to life. Users were thrilled to discover the entertainment value of experiencing new worlds in which they could seemingly move about with life-size dinosaurs and race cars, participate in batttle scenarios, and more.

Currently, VR is a $5 billion dollar industry just in the US. It is forecast to grow over the next 6 years into an $84 billion market. Obviously, more than video games are fueling this compound annual growth rate of over 40%.

In fact, there exists a rising demand for virtual training across a variety of industries, including automotive, education, manufacturing, aerospace, healthcare, and more. A 2015 Ford analysis found that virtual training sessions decreased employee injuries and accidents by 70 percent. The use of VR training in healthcare is revolutionizing training in medical schools— imagine being able to practice surgery without risking a real patient’s health.

Here at Capitol, our construction management programs give students the opportunity to train for careers in which the use of both AR and VR will be commonplace. And, as occupational health and safety standards in the construction industry improves, virtual building sites can be created for testing and establishing protocols for safe operation.

Learn more about the complex computer modelling required to support the generation of alternate realities by visiting Capitol’s engineering and computer science programs. Both of these fields of study offer impressive financial rewards, along with the allure of involvement in literally creating new worlds.

Works cited:

1. A brief history of augmented reality (+future trends & impact) - G2. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2022, from 

2. Fortune Business Insights. (2022, April 18). With 44.8% CAGR, virtual reality market size worth USD 84.09 billion in 2028. GlobeNewswire News Room. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from 

3. Sharma, C. (2021, January 16). 11 examples of augmented reality in Everyday Life. StudiousGuy. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from