AR and VR are two sides of the same coin

People tend to view augmented reality and virtual reality as two different things.

I always thought that this is obvious, but apparently, it’s not: AR and VR are two ends of one spectrum. While there are distinct use cases for both, in the future the real power will come from being able to mix and match between both.

I imagine one headset where you can selectively blend in elements into the real world, until you’re in a completely virtual world.

Simple example: You are sitting at your desk with your colleague and working on a project. Your other colleague also wants to join in, but she’s physically somewhere else. Now, you can just add her. For her, everything will be virtual. For you and your local colleague only her avatar will be virtual. One can think of several other use cases where this seamless mixing and matching can be extremely empowering, such in education, professional training, and social things like concerts.

I’m not the first person to see it this way, obviosuly. Oculus Chief Scientist Michael Abrash lays out this vision each year at the Oculus Connect conference.

From a technological point of view, it’s much harder to make a compelling AR headset than a VR headset. That’s why we’re now seeing mass–market ready VR headsets, while AR headset makers are focussing on professional niches. However, advancements in research for VR headsets also benefits AR headset. Again, two sides of the same coin.

Why is it harder to make AR headsets?

Most AR headsets overlay virtual graphics on the real world by projecting light into a lense that is in front of your eyes, which then mixes with the light from your environment. Another approach is to use cameras to pass through real world information into the user’s eyes. Obviosuly, both approaches have pros and cons and you can read more about it in this article by Daniel Wagner.

Finally, Karl Kuttag has a more technical deep dive for the Magicleap and the Hololens if you’re interested.

Feel free to join the discussion on this Twitter thread.