Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality: Strengths and Weaknesses

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality: Strengths and Weaknesses | Virtual reality completely immerses users in content, creating new experiences and environments, and more than any technology to date, encouraging users to empathize with new people and situations. The strengths of augmented reality correspond to the many weaknesses of virtual reality. The nature of augmented reality and its access to the real world make it an ideal candidate for applications that require real-world interaction with other users or objects.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has claimed that he expects augmented reality to be greater than virtual reality for this very reason. In an interview with ABC News in 2016, Cook said, “Virtual reality is kind of involving and immersing a person in an experience that could be really great, but maybe have less commercial interest over time. Fewer people will be interested in that.”
It remains to be seen whether Cook’s optimistic behavior on commercial interest will prove correct, but his stance on the different strengths of virtual and augmented reality depends on money.
Virtual Reality Capabilities

Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality: Strengths and Weaknesses

Virtual reality technology offers the following advantages:

Full immersion: Due to the closed nature of current VR implementations, users will be fully focused on the content of your application, without being distracted by email, phone messages, or other external events. This complete immersion is ideal for applications that need the user’s full attention, such as videos, storytelling, games and educational applications.

User Transport: VR can do just what its name suggests – create a virtual reality-like environment for the end user. The user in an augmented reality application is generally still aware of their current surroundings in the real world, but a user in virtual reality may be completely unaware of their surroundings. Sharing a tiny one-bedroom apartment in New York with five friends? Plug in a virtual reality headset and you will feel as if you are living in a spacious mansion. Flying a transatlantic flight in cramped bus seats? Put on a VR headset and you’ll feel like you’re in an empty movie theater, watching content on a 70-foot screen.

Creating Empathy: Virtual reality can put users in situations they would never have imagined, including those of others. This ability to create a shared experience between users is unique to virtual reality and one of its greatest strengths.

Technology maturity: Virtual reality as a technology has been on the rise since the introduction of consumer-level virtual reality with the Oculus Rift DK1 in 2013. Many big names in technology, including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung have released one or more reality headsets default and has plans to release more. Interest in augmented reality saw a slight rise with the introduction of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore, but virtual reality still tops this category for consumer devices.
Virtual Reality Weaknesses
Despite its convincing advantages, virtual reality is not an ideal platform to implement your project. Here are some of its drawbacks:
Limited interaction with the outside world: Users in VR are completely closed off from the rest of the world, which may be impractical for certain types of projects. It is not uncommon for users in room-level virtual reality to need a fairly open space in order to experiment. Otherwise, they run the risk of bumping into other people or things.
Lack of strong social interaction: The experiences offered by virtual reality can be amazing, but they can also seem isolated. Realistic environments can create such a real feeling that users expect social interactions to be realistic as well. However, the technology to make social interaction in virtual reality appear real has not yet been achieved. The lack of eye contact and the inability to see a user’s true facial expression in most social VR applications can leave the social experience of VR sinking into a strange, eerie valley between a lack of social interaction and true personal connection.
Companies like Facebook, Sansar, and Pluto are all working on their own vision of social interaction and in-person communication in the futuristic virtual reality space, but it’s still early days for this technology. Defining social experience will be a huge problem to solve in the next few years for both virtual and augmented reality.
Cost and hardware: Some apps can be played in and out of the headset, such as 360 YouTube videos. However, without the headset, you’d have effectively removed “reality” from virtual reality and you’re just looking at another 2D app. No matter which flavor of VR you choose, users need some kind of hardware to truly experience your app as VR. Low-cost devices such as Google Cardboard are widely available, but they do not support high-performance virtual reality applications. For high-end VR experiences, the cost of VR hardware (and the computer to run those experiences) can be a drag so those with a keen interest in VR may be put off until the price drops or, perhaps worse, a lower-level VR experience And I think that’s all that virtual reality has to offer.

Not a Friction Free Experience: In marketing jargon, a frictionless experience is one that does not require the consumer to go through any additional trouble to use it. As it currently stands, virtual reality technology is far from being frictionless. Many VR experiences (especially on the higher end) require a specific location for your VR setup which consists of plenty of space to navigate the real world space and powerful external hardware to run VR. All of this can result in users being less likely to use their VR settings, if due to the friction of having to set aside a time and place for a VR fix. We hope that the second generation of headphones, which features inside-out tracking and fully stand-alone, unrestricted headphones, will take steps toward making your virtual reality experience even more seamless.

Large market share: Although virtual reality is making strides to gain widespread consumer adoption, it has not yet achieved critical mass at the same level as a computer or mobile phone. So far, virtual reality headsets, especially high-end headphones, are still a plaything for early adopters. Facebook and Google hope to improve this further by launching affordable, mid-range second-generation headphones in 2018. However, if massive user adoption at the mobile level, for example, is a requirement for your project or product, put In mind that you probably won’t get with the current VR implementation.

Augmented Reality Capabilities
Here are some of the benefits that augmented reality provides:

Social and Real World Interaction: The ability to interact with people or things in the real world is the core concept of augmented reality. Enhancing the real world with digital artifacts expands the scope of what the real world can do. And since augmented reality does not lock the user away from the rest of the world, it can be more easily used socially. When using a headset, glasses or a mobile device, the user is not isolated from the world, allowing for smoother social interaction with those around you. After the release of the augmented reality game Pokémon GO for Android and iOS devices, it wasn’t uncommon to encounter real-world strangers exchanging notes about digital artifacts like Pokémon and gym locations. This merging of real and virtual is exactly the area where augmented reality excels.

Mostly frictionless: In part due to augmented reality’s openness to the real world, the augmented reality experience can be tougher to use than virtual reality, particularly for implementations on lower-end mobile devices. Since current augmented reality experiences don’t lock the user away from the real world, it can feel almost as frictionless as opening an app on a mobile device, which is already familiar to millions of users. High-end experiences such as the Meta 2 and HoloLens can require more investment in user time and may require a specific location (because the Meta 2 is tied to a PC). In general, augmented reality experiences seem to generate less user friction than most current virtual reality experiences.

Limited Additional Hardware Required for Mobile Implementations: With mobile versions of Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit, millions of users are huddling with an AR-capable device in their pocket. The augmented reality implementations that these technologies allow are fairly simple, but they open up a huge user base of potential consumers for your app.
Augmented Reality Weaknesses
Augmented reality has its drawbacks in addition to its benefits. Here’s a quick look at them:

Technology Maturity: Even as Google and Apple push AR capabilities to the fore with their mobile versions, AR still lags behind VR in terms of technology maturity. This lack of technical maturity can reveal itself through a number of other shortcomings (eg, device accessibility, lack of content, potential unknowns, etc.).

Large market share: Outside of mobile augmented reality, the consumer market for augmented reality devices is virtually non-existent. Currently only a few companies produce devices that are close to the consumer range, and none of these devices are currently being marketed to consumers, only to developers, companies and organizations.
Hardware Access: AR has a few companies competing in the low, mid, and high price ranges, with most AR devices remaining in beta or targeting enterprises rather than consumers directly. Most users will not be able to access the AR device (outside of mobile AR) for some time. For some projects, this may not be an issue. You may be able to control the devices and provide access to them as the project requires. However, for a large number of projects, this may be unsuccessful.

Carefully consider accessing the device for your next project. If you’re planning on developing for augmented reality and the mobile form factor is right for you, great – you’re all set! If the mobile form factor does not fit the requirements of your project, you will be very limited in the market that you can currently develop.

Lack of content: Augmented reality is still in its infancy. There is a noticeable lack of content, especially high-end content, for users to experience. This lack of content goes hand in hand with the technical maturity of AR and device access. As augmented reality matures technically and as content creators start to get their hands on augmented reality devices, more and better content will start emerging as often as in virtual reality. However, we have not yet reached that point. It will likely take a mass consumer version of an augmented reality device to really start the content creation race.

Limited immersion: The strength of augmented reality can also be a weakness, particularly augmented reality within the mobile device form factor. The basic foundation of augmented reality is rooted in the ability to interact with the real world. This offers many benefits, but at the cost of potential interruptions to users’ experience. If your project requires any kind of fully realized artificial reality, or requires the user to remain fully immersed in your reality without distractions, then augmented reality probably isn’t your option.

Unknown: The relative immaturity of AR comes at the expense of the unknown. Virtual reality is still in its infancy as a technology too, but there is a generally agreed-upon roadmap to where things seem to be going. It is still possible for a startup company to come along and rock the VR industry with new hardware/software, but the general trend that VR is going seems to have been established.

Augmented reality has not yet reached the state of predictability. Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore have been surprises for the consumer market, although not entirely unexpected for industry insiders. Apple’s augmented reality glasses are still unknown, and Magic Leap’s entry into the augmented reality space is in its infancy. These or other products could completely change the AR roadmap.

Currently, developing a project for augmented reality requires embracing the unknown and building your project accordingly. Some companies can align themselves with these principles, while others may be uncomfortable with the ever-changing landscape and be better off finding a different implementation for their projects until the unknown becomes more known.