What is the difference between AR glasses and VR headset? Definitions explained

IF you can’t make sense of VR and AR, you’re probably not alone.

Here’s a quick guide to the difference between the two, and the benefits of each.

In virtual reality, the goggles immerse you in a computer-generated world

In virtual reality, the goggles immerse you in a computer-generated worldCredit: Meta

Difference between AR glasses and VR headsets

What is a VR headset?

VR stands for virtual reality.

For virtual reality, the idea is that you’re totally immersed in the experience.

You don a pair of goggles, and then everything you see through the lenses is computer-generated.

A good example of a VR headset is Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Quest 2, or even the newer Meta Quest Pro.

It can transport you to faraway lands and impossible worlds, with nothing from the real world present visually.

Some VR headsets also allow a “mixed reality” experience.

This is when cameras on the outside of the headset can pull in some visuals from outside – but they’re still rendered on a display.

For instance, the Meta Quest Pro can show you your real desk, but simulate a virtual computer screen to work on.

Virtual reality has the benefit of being very immersive, tricking your eyes and brain into thinking you’re somewhere else.

But the downside is that it can be quite physically isolating, as – in a true VR experience – you can’t see the real world around you, or other people in the room.

What VR headsets are there?

Here are a few of the most popular…

  • Meta Quest 2
  • Meta Quest Pro
  • PlayStation VR
  • Samsung Gear VR
  • Microsoft HoloLens
  • Google Daydream View
  • HTC Vive Focus 3
  • HTC Vive Flow

What are AR glasses?

AR – or augmented reality – is an alternative to VR.

With AR, you wear a pair of glasses or goggles that lets you see everything around you.

This isn’t a computer-generated version of the world shown through cameras. You’re seeing the actual world, as if you were wearing a pair of regular spectacles.

AR glasses will then overlay computer-generated imagery on top of the world around you.

So maybe you could have Google Street View arrow directions on the floor in front of you, guiding you around.

Or maybe you could have an app that shows the names and companies of other people specifically at a business convention.

You can already see examples of AR on your smartphone today: think about seeing the creatures on your street in Pokemon Go.

Part of the problem with AR glasses is that it requires a lot of computing power, batteries, and sensors, so the specs need to be bulky.

But eventually the size of AR glasses will shrink, and they’ll be much more practical to wear.

A big advantage of AR is that you’re not closed off like in VR. So you can see the world around with you in its full fidelity, and interact with it like normal.

What VR headsets are there?

Here are a few of the most popular…

  • Microsoft HoloLens 2
  • Magic Leap one
  • Google Glass

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