Augmented reality

What is the difference  between augmented reality  ( AR ) and  virtual reality ( VR ) It has often been talked about in JOurnal , even if the two areas of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are often confused. This is especially the case in Italy, where the technologies in question are developing less rapidly than in other parts of the world. Furthermore, although augmented and virtual reality have traits in common, the difference and the applications make them irreconcilable. Soon we will see what AR and VR consist of.


The difference between augmented reality and virtual reality, for non-experts, is subtle but quite evident. The development of augmented reality applications enriches the surrounding environment with a whole series of information superimposed on the visual field. AR, therefore, adds multimedia elements to the physical space, allowing users to enjoy a unique interactive experience. Augmented reality also increases the human experience thanks to technological mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and head-mounted displays ( HDM ) that use AI applications to observe virtual elements and interact with reality.

Virtual reality, on the other hand, creates a totally new world that exists nowhere else except in digital form.

To return to the textbook definitions, we could say that virtual reality combines hardware and software devices and makes them collaborate with each other to create a virtual space, within which the user can move freely. It is a simulated reality , created on the computer, a three-dimensional digital world that appears real and makes the user experience totally new and immersive experiences .

If you are wondering what the main difference is between augmented and virtual reality, you could answer like this:  in the case of augmented reality it is the virtual world that “enters” the real one, on the contrary in the case of virtual reality it is we who “enter” in another world.

However, let’s get to the heart of the matter.


Thanks to technology it is possible to interact with a large amount of information, with incredible effects on your personal and working life. The more innovation progresses, the more we need to find solutions to encourage interaction between machine and human being. The latter, for example, by nature is used to interacting with a three-dimensional reality, the opposite of a two-dimensional screen. Here comes virtual reality and augmented reality to the rescue, two similar technologies capable of offering the possibility of concretely improving the capabilities of human beings, accentuating their potential.

Through the five senses, in fact, we access information and process it through our “mental capacity”, which, however, is reduced if we carry out multiple activities at the same time, with impacts on the so-called cognitive load. Thanks to sight, for example, everything is simplified. In other words, when we look at the physical world, we instantly absorb an enormous amount of information with less effort. This is why an image that overlays information on the physical world minimizes the cognitive load and makes augmented reality and virtual reality truly effective.

Furthermore, some recent scientific studies demonstrate that virtual reality can be used for motor and cognitive rehabilitation, or as an aid for pathologies such as autism.


The forecast of all the main analytical institutes is that augmented reality and virtual reality will expand rapidly in the near future, reaching a development rate of 58.1% between now and 2023. The new generations of smartphones will push the market , combined with advances in connectivity and computing, as well as innovative platforms developed by Apple , Google and Facebook .

If so far the struggle for supremacy between virtual reality and augmented reality seems to have been won by the former, by 2023 augmented reality could overtake the latter, due to growing demand in the tourism, retail and healthcare sectors . Virtual reality is currently used primarily for recreational applications, but both augmented and virtual reality can be extremely useful in improving the experience in the world of tourism, smart cities and training .

The prospects appear quite positive, also because more global companies are willing to apply solutions of this type within the company. In this regard, 82% of companies that currently exploit the advantages of augmented reality and virtual reality say they are satisfied with the benefits obtained. In general, augmented reality is considered more applicable in companies, precisely because of its ability to interact with reality.

Currently, about 6% of augmented and virtual reality companies produce mobile devices, such as virtual reality headsets . The demand for software solutions is lower, of course, but it is destined to grow over time.

Of the two, augmented reality is the one that is most easily applied in the company, precisely because of the way in which it interacts with reality tout court . Nonetheless, virtual reality may also be able to have a positive impact on company business . Certainly, to make the most of the opportunities offered by both technologies, teams dedicated to their management should be created.


AR is increasingly a form of visual content management 2.0 , due to its ability to help companies and organizations add new information layers that include high interaction using mobile devices and wearable technologies.

In this regard, the first area in which augmented reality was experimented was that of entertainment , where the ” wow” effect is still exploited today to capture the public’s attention. In fact, among the pioneers of AR is LEGO which, to better understand the use of the game contained in the packages, uses augmented reality in the form of ” smart packaging “. By framing one of the packages, from the monitor you can see a sort of trailer start with the animated characters involved in a gag.

In the automotive sector, brands use this technology both for remote assistance and for the presentation of new models in showrooms. In the industrial sector, however, AR allows checks to be carried out accurately and safely for all monitoring and maintenance activities, providing detailed information for any interventions.

It seems clear that augmented reality and virtual reality can also be very useful in the tourism sector and in current or future smart cities . To date, virtual reality is used more for gaming applications than for employee training activities.

The use of AR in Industry 4.0 also guarantees a significant improvement in production, maintenance and assistance activities, as well as support for the design and planning of products and solutions. Indeed, both augmented and virtual reality allow you to view the product before it is created, optimizing the design phases and anticipating problems relating to the object. This will significantly reduce the impact on product development costs.

To learn more about the latest technological innovations in AR and VR, keep an eye on our JOurnal .

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