Enter the Matrix: Comparing Virtual And Augmented Reality

William Elcock

I’m sure you guys are aware of the Pokémon Go craze that’s going on at the moment and have seen folks wandering around looking for Charizard. This is probably the most striking example we have today of augmented reality.

Enter The Matrix | Shutterstock
Enter the Matrix | Shutterstock

You guys have probably hear of virtual reality as well and you may be wondering what the difference is between the 2 terms. Well let’s dig a little deeper.

Mixed Reality

So, it turns out that the relationship between augmented and virtual reality was something that was being thought of from as far back as 1994. Paul Milgram and his colleagues published a paper in that year describing a “Reality-Virtuality Continuum” where a completely real environment and a completely virtual environment are on opposite ends of the continuum and mixed reality encompasses the middle ground. This concept is illustrated in the diagram below.

SPIE941
Augmented Reality: A Class of Displays on The Reality-Virtuality Continuum | Ergonomics in Teleoperation and Control Laboratory, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto

Augmented Reality

Based on the continuum, augmented reality must refer to the use of technology in order to represent the real environment with some virtual elements. Probably the most striking application of this is seen through the use of phone cameras and various apps meant to perform different functions.

For instance, one of the more powerful applications was brought to light with the introduction of the World Lens app by Quest Visual back in 2010. The app allowed users to point their phone cameras at text in a foreign language and this text was then translated in real time. Google has since acquired Quest Visual and the feature is available in the Google Translate app. See the screenshot below to see the augmented reality translation feature of Google Translate in action.

before_translation after_translation
This type of real time translation isn’t perfect but it works and will only get better as time passes. This has the potential to make travelling to countries which speak a language different to your native one a lot less daunting due to the ability to translate text in a language foreign to you quite quickly.

We have of course mentioned the hugely popular Pokémon Go. Just to touch on it again though, the way it works is that the Pokémons being hunted are superimposed onto the image feed from your device’s camera based on your location and you are able to interact with the game in this way.

pokemongo_screenshot_edited

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality lies on the other side of the continuum and refers to a completely fabricated environment through the use of technology. One of the more appealing  ways of presenting Virtual Reality  currently is through the use of headsets which give the user the sensation of being completely immersed in a virtual environment.

Imagine watching your favorite movie or playing your favorite game and feeling as if you are a part of it. Well this is what Oculus has begun to bring to the market with their Rift devices.

occulus_immersion

Some really cool stuff is possible with this technology. You know if you really think about it, View Master devices from the ‘80s were offering an immersive experience similar to a VR headset. Well, View Master is back at it again! They now have for a sale a device which makes use of your smartphone to display immersive Augmented and Virtual Reality experiences to users.

Viewmaster_vr

What a time to be alive!

Final Thoughts

So basically, Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are similar but not quite the same. In the case of Virtual Reality however, your environment is completely made up. This is probably the best way to make the distinction between the two concepts.

And you know, maybe with the way things are going maybe we can create an artificial Matrix of sorts by mixing just the right amount of real and virtual elements. So with that being said, which pill will you choose? Red pill or blue pill?

red_blue_pill_resized

Just kidding guys… I think. If you have any questions or comments though please let us know and thanks for reading.

ALSO READ: 5 Uses for Your Phone Camera other than Taking Photos and Selfies

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William Elcock

Written By

William Elcock

William has been helping friends troubleshoot tech problems for several years and thus made the natural progression into tech blogging. In addition to consumer electronics William also has a vested interest in various renewable energy topics.