Virtual Reality versus Augmented Reality – what is the difference?

Virtual Reality in the AEC environment typically consists of a headset (like the Oculus Rift) that allows complete immersion into the 3D environment.  The headsets typically block out all light or other visuals.  There are various softwares and systems allowing users to virtually walk through a project.

Static VR – Static VR tours are essentially 360×180 images, or controlled locations.  An example may be the center of a room.  No ability to “walk” from space to space.  A headset is not required – users may opt for inexpensive glasses, like Google Cardboard.




Realtime VR – Realtime VR tours allow complete maneuverability.  Typically a user can either “walk” or “fly” through a project.  When “walking”, the user will experience gravity when walking up or down stairs, for example, as well as be stopped by walls.  “Fly” mode allows the user to smoothly navigate about an environment without gravity constraints and can even fly through walls.  Realtime VR requires a headset like the Oculus Rift shown below.




Augment Reality in the AEC environment also typically involves a headset (like Microsoft Hololens) show below, but the difference is the user may still see beyond the view to actual space.  For example, a user may be standing in an unfinished room but be viewing a sofa in the headset, as if it actually existed.  Users may also go immersive as described above in Realtime VR.  I envision AR as the future of the AEC industry.  To-date, however, the technology is not there yet.  So for now, I am using VR NOT AR, but look for that to change over the next 5 years or so!