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Difference between virtual and augmented reality

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Every day, advances in technology lead us to immerse ourselves in engaging formats that lead us to countless tools applicable to our daily routine in different fields.

This is how the boundaries between reality and virtuality have blended, making it easier for us to get a little closer to scenarios that we used to only see in movies.

Being able to be inside our favorite video game, explore other places without having to be physically present in them or even know very closely dangerous animals and know how they would look like in the middle of the living room of our house; is easily achieved in two ways: through augmented reality or using virtual reality.

But what is the difference between the two, what are they for, and how are they applied? The answers to these questions are pretty interesting.

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What is augmented reality?

Augmented Reality -AR- allows us to see reality mixed with an element of fiction through a technological device since it projects certain information that can be an image, a graphic, character, text, or object, using the physical space surrounding us.

To interact with this digital tool, it is required to use a camera lens, either from a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone, which allows superimposing any of the mentioned elements to the real plane.

An example of AR that we all have at hand is the option provided by Google from its mobile App when searching for certain animals.

By clicking on the “View in 3D” button, we will be able to get a detailed view of the animal we choose in front of us. We only need to point our camera at an empty surface, and the animal will automatically appear in real size.

Among the options that we can see in 3D models, thanks to this App, we can find animals such as the Bengal tiger, leopard, white shark, giant panda, raccoon, brown bear, python snake, eagle, and the African lion.   

Also read: A Brand With More Chemistry

We met another sample of Augmented Reality with the arrival of the game ‘Pokemon Go’ in 2016, which marked the transition from Nintendo consoles to smartphones.

Players, acting as ‘Pokémon trainers,’ seek to capture and train fictional creatures with different abilities to complete the collection. The format also includes battles with other Pokémon and winning battles.

To capture them, the player must search the streets of his city, guided by the GPS of his cell phone; the App will issue a notification when he is near a Pokémon. When the “trainer” turns on his phone’s camera, he finds an image of the creature in question, superimposed on the real scene captured by the lens, and when he touches the screen, he catches it.

Such was the furor caused by the augmented reality game that authorities in different countries alerted players about the danger of not looking up from their cell phones, in cases where “trainers” were walking the streets in search of new pokémon crossing vehicle crossings without caution.

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What is virtual reality?

Virtual Reality -VR- is based on the user’s immersion in a three-dimensional environment generated by an application, where a complete sensory experience is simulated within an artificial environment with which the user can interact.

To “enter” this virtual space, it is necessary to wear holographic glasses that cover the view with a transparent lens and, based on sensors, reproduce images that seem life-size and that change with movement, also varying their field of vision.

This is how we can experience the flight simulation of a war plane, the driving exercise of a vehicle, or the exploration of new scenarios, developing actions that transmit completely real sensations.

When immersed in virtual reality, all our senses are activated in response to the many stimuli generated by the situations recreated in it. And, even though the senses that capture the most stimuli are sight and hearing, the information that our brain receives is similar to that transmitted in the real world; thus, the user’s disbelief is suspended, convincing him that he is in a different dimension and that he feels part of it.

A key point of virtual reality lies in the graphic quality of the scenarios and in achieving perfect synchrony between the movements of the user’s head and eyes so that the perception is “faithful to reality”.

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What are virtual and augmented reality for?

As we have seen, both augmented and virtual reality have become new communication channels that offer different degrees of interaction that ultimately generate a higher degree of user recall.   

Although the importance of storytelling to connect with our audience effectively has been demonstrated, adding an immersive component to it will ensure greater customer acquisition and loyalty.

Leaving the traditional media to offer the possibility of amplifying content, taking the risk of moving from analog to digital, has become a challenge for different companies that aim to have a differentiating factor in the market.

The first step is to understand where our consumers’ daily lives are headed and how they will be interacting with their environment in the future, where mobile devices will continue to play a crucial role.  

In this regard, the German online statistics portal Statista GmbH recently revealed that in 2023 there would be approximately 1.7 billion mobile augmented reality users worldwide, more than double the number recorded in 2020.

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igloolab / Augmented reality users- IglooLab

But, knowing these projections, how can we best take advantage of the benefits of virtual and augmented reality? Both have fields of action that work as a catalyst for innovative ideas.

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Virtual reality

The use of virtual reality is not only for entertainment purposes. Over the years, its use has been extended to different areas of study where it has proved to be an essential support for the development of other practices.

This is the case of the architecture sector, where this technology is used as a starting point for large-scale projects because, thanks to the simulation of scenarios, it is possible to know what the final result of the work will be, opening the possibility of studying and calculating designs in a better way, validating measurements and reducing possible errors.

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For example, being inside the structure before it is built makes it easier to trace possible emergency evacuation routes or know the distribution of light and the compensation of artificial light to favor energy savings.

Furthermore, project clients can visit their future home, modify finishes, combine colors, and establish the house’s layout, among other things.

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Augmented Reality

One of the advantages of using Augmented Reality is that, since it does not require a device or gadget additional to a cell phone camera, it can be used more frequently. Thanks to this, during the Covid -19 pandemic, hundreds of contents were adapted to digital formats to facilitate access to them without contact.

Thus, the implementation of QR codes became part of the self-care measures adopted by public places to stop the spread of viruses. Restaurants, airports, banks, among other establishments, relied on this model to improve the user experience.

In addition, Augmented Reality helps consumers to have at hand all the information about the products they are acquiring, which represents a more significant interaction with the brand.

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Uses of virtual and augmented reality in medicine.

Beyond commercial or entertainment purposes, the use of technology and its advances have reached levels of impact that extend even to the care of human life. Virtual and augmented reality are currently a fundamental part of medicine, pharmaceuticals, and scientific research studies.

Thanks to VR, health professionals in training can train in surgical interventions with a virtual patient on which complex procedures are performed. Before adopting this tool, doctors’ learning was limited to observation exercises and videos and then applying their knowledge in an accurate surgery on a body. 

Related content: Benefits of Gamification

Currently, the “operating room” is recreated in an entirely interactive space where the doctor or medical student can operate again and again on a virtual patient, knowing in real-time the results of his practice until it is completed.

For the pharmaceutical industry, from Igloolab, we find the best way to manage knowledge in both technologies, ensuring full interactivity and high levels of engagement.

We create portable digital content, sending information to health professionals through pieces that represent savings in resources and that allow the generation of an entire experience around any product.

To observe how the active ingredient works in the human body, know its benefits, and use it easily and practically.

In other scenarios, we have managed to increase the participation of specialists attending massive events, where being in front of a camera, the functioning of specific organs is projected on themselves, and the mechanism of action of the drug on them is evidenced.

This illustrates organic processes, where research, science, and creativity come together, resulting in universal information that is easy to assimilate.

Both Augmented and Virtual Reality are revolutionizing the world, and their use depends solely on our creativity.

Luis Alfonso Ruíz                                                                                                                                      

CEO Igloolab 

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