# What is Virtual and Augmented Reality? (Meaning & Differences)

Designers, program managers, analysts, and engineers use computer simulation modeling to understand and evaluate ‘what if’ case scenarios. It can model a real or proposed system using computer software and is useful when changes to the actual system are difficult to implement, involve high costs, or are impractical. There are two broad categories of computer-generated simulations – Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.  Let’s understand what is virtual and augmented reality and their uses and differences.

## What is Computer-Generated Simulation?

Computer simulation is the use of a computer to represent the dynamic responses of one system by the behaviour of another system modeled after it. A simulation uses a mathematical description, or model, of a real system in the form of a computer program. This model is composed of equations that duplicate the functional relationships within the real system. When the program is run, the resulting mathematical dynamics form an analog of the behaviour of the real system, with the results presented in the form of data. A simulation can also take the form of a computer-graphics image that represents dynamic processes in an animated sequence.

## Uses of Computer-Generated Simulation

Computer simulations are used to study the dynamic behaviour of objects or systems in response to conditions that cannot be easily or safely applied in real life. For example, a nuclear blast can be described by a mathematical model that incorporates such variables as heat, velocity, and radioactive emissions. Additional mathematical equations can then be used to adjust the model to changes in certain variables, such as the amount of fissionable material that produced the blast. Simulations are especially useful in enabling observers to measure and predict how the functioning of an entire system may be affected by altering individual components within that system.

The simpler simulations performed by personal computers consist mainly of business models and geometric models. The former includes spreadsheet, financial, and statistical software programs that are used in business analysis and planning. Geometric models are used for numerous applications that require simple mathematical modeling of objects, such as buildings, industrial parts, and the molecular structures of chemicals.

More advanced simulations, such as those that emulate weather patterns or the behaviour of macroeconomic systems, are usually performed on powerful workstations or supercomputers. In engineering, computer models of newly designed structures undergo simulated tests to determine their responses to stress and other physical variables. Simulations of river systems can be manipulated to determine the potential effects of dams and irrigation networks before any actual construction has taken place. Other examples of computer simulations include estimating the competitive responses of companies in a particular market and reproducing the movement and flight of space vehicles.

## What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is the more common of the two trends, but it may have more limited possibilities within a business. Most people are familiar with VR from the video game industry, where it has been evolving for many years. The main ingredient of a VR system is some type of headset that completely takes over the user’s field of vision, providing an immersive experience. More advanced VR systems provide audio immersion, extremely high resolution, and positional tracking that allows users to move around and use their hands to interact with the virtual environment.

The system requirements for VR range from a smartphone inserted into a simple cardboard eyepiece to a self-contained headset to wearables that connect to powerful computers that do the bulk of the processing. Regardless of the equipment involved, there is significant friction for the end user in setting up and using the technology.

Given this friction, businesses have to think carefully about where they may want to implement VR. Conferencing is a possible solution, but the benefits of a VR conference have to be weighed against the cost of the equipment and its usability. Training holds more possibilities, but again there would have to be a sizable investment in the VR training program. For some companies, the return will be worth the investment, but it may be difficult for VR to reach mass adoption.

## What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is far less immersive than virtual reality. In AR, some kind of device goes between a user and the physical environment, and information can be displayed while the user still has a normal view of their surroundings. Today, this is usually done with a smartphone or a wearable such as the early Google Glass experiment or Microsoft’s Hololens. Moving forward, the technology could be incorporated into everyday eyeglasses, building windows, or devices customized for specific situations.

On the front end, the equipment needed for AR is less complex. On the back end, though, things get more complicated. While VR requires heavy processing to render high-resolution virtual environments, AR requires image recognition to analyze the physical environment, network management to transmit data depending on real-time needs, and a database of information that can be displayed.

However, the simplification of the front end and the wider range of possibilities from using the surrounding environment lead to a broader potential for businesses. Providing additional information to an end user can add value in many different scenarios. Local information for tourists, equipment specifications for repair technicians, and virtual furnishing for interior designers are just a few of the ways AR is being used today.

## Difference Between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Let’s now compare the differences between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

## Practice Problems

1. What is Computer Generated Simulation?
2. What is Virtual Reality?
3. What is Augmented Reality?
4. What are the uses of Virtual Reality?
5. What are the uses of Augmented Reality?
6. What are the differences between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality?

## FAQs

### What is Computer Generated Simulation?

Computer simulation is the use of a computer to represent the dynamic responses of one system by the behaviour of another system modeled after it. A simulation uses a mathematical description, or model, of a real system in the form of a computer program. This model is composed of equations that duplicate the functional relationships within the real system.

### What is Virtual Reality?

The main ingredient of a VR system is some type of headset that completely takes over the user’s field of vision, providing an immersive experience.

### What is Augmented Reality?

In AR, some kind of device goes between a user and the physical environment, and information can be displayed while the user still has a normal view of their surroundings.

### Are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality different?

Yes, virtual reality and augmented reality are two different technologies. The main ingredient of a VR system is some type of headset that completely takes over the user’s field of vision, providing an immersive experience. Augmented reality is far less immersive than virtual reality. In AR, some kind of device goes between a user and the physical environment, and information can be displayed while the user still has a normal view of their surroundings.

## Conclusion

Computer simulation is the use of a computer to represent the dynamic responses of one system by the behaviour of another system modeled after it. There are two main types of computer simulations – Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. VR creates a completely immersive environment for the user whereas AR is far less immersive than virtual reality.