We’re entering a brave new world of consumer technology – a tipping point where what once felt like “future tech” is now becoming commonplace. I’m particularly thrilled at how AR and VR technologies will impact how we entertain ourselves in the not-too-distant future. To fully understand the possibilities, it’s important to understand the differences between the technologies and what you can look forward to.

What Is VR?

Virtual reality, or VR for short, involves creating an immersive digital “world” that you can enter, usually by strapping on a headset. VR, in various forms, has been around for decades, but never took off because the technology wasn’t able to deliver a reliably great experience or something that users could go back to again and again for fun.

Over the last few years, we’ve hit a tipping point where VR hardware and software can produce experiences that are “real” enough for people to enjoy. Modern VR headsets create a 3D environment you can enter, interact with and even enjoy.

In the next few years, I expect VR to really take off as the technology continues to improve and prices drop. In particular, this technology is going to have a major impact on gaming and in-home entertainment. Just think about how amazing it will be to actually enter that 3D-video-game world, or to watch a baseball game from the catcher’s perspective.

The “wow factor” potential of VR is off the charts.

What Is AR?

Augmented reality (AR) puts a digital layer over the physical world. This can be done through your smartphone screen or specially designed glasses or headsets.

I’m sure you remember the craze of 2016 in which people of all ages ran around cities to capture digital monsters using their smartphones. Of course, the monsters weren’t really there, but the game made it look as if they were part of the real world. That’s a great example of AR in action.

Besides AR games, there are a ton of seemingly mundane activities that could be made extraordinary when you marry the power of the digital world with the real one.

Imagine how cool it would be to have a lightweight set of glasses that gave you perfect walking directions when you’re visiting a new destination. Think about how useful it would for an instructional video on sink repairs to include digital arrows pointing to exactly where you needed to place your wrench on your pipes. By bringing digital elements into the real world, AR technology can make our lives a lot easier and potentially more interesting.

What Is the Difference between AR and VR?

VR attempts to build a digital world that you enter through a headset, while AR superimposes computer-generated interactive images onto the real world.

Should You Buy into VR or AR Soon?

Currently there are multiple VR headsets on the market and most offer compelling experiences. Gamers, in particular, can buy VR headsets right now and get a lot out of their purchase. If gaming isn’t a high priority for you, I’d advise waiting a little while before taking the plunge – currently there are fewer VR entertainment experiences available.

If you want to experience AR, there are a few devices on the market. Most of these are called “smart glasses.” I can’t fully recommend purchasing these devices unless you’re an early adopter. As of right now, most of them lack the polish, technology or pricing to deliver a great experience.

In the future, I’m pretty confident that your smartphone will have both technologies built in directly. This change might take a few years to happen, but one day, it’s possible that AR and VR might even become a part of daily life.

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Marin Perez

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Marin Perez

Marin is passionate about how technology is changing the way we work and play. He's swimming in the startup waters now but formerly blogged about iPhones, Android and anything else that caught his attention for publications like CNET, InformationWeek and IntoMobile. When not working on his craft, Marin plans trips, practices yoga and watches too much professional basketball.

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