Types of Augmented & Virtual Reality

Essential Points

The terms AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) are seen everywhere when talking about gaming, the metaverse, and other technologies. These terms refer to the level of experience and immersion provided when using them and it is important to distinguish the difference between them. AR is less immersive and provides an overlay of information onto the physical world (think of Pokémon GO or Ray-Ban’s Stories Smart Glasses). These devices add a layer of digital information over the physical world we see. VR is a fully immersive technology where we “enter” a whole new digital world apart from the physical one (think of Oculus headsets). The metaverse aims to be a VR technology and is designed for such devices to provide the best user experience.

What is AR & VR? How do they compare?

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) refers to the literal “augmentation” or altering of our physical reality. AR devices simply provide an overlay of digital inputs on top of our physical world to merge it with the digital world. There are two types of AR marker and markerless:

Marker AR

Triggers an experience when a “marker” is scanned, this can be a logo, object, QR code, or something else. While some of these AR experiences require apps which recognize the markers, some can be triggered with smartphone cameras.

Examples of Marker AR uses include holiday cards, museum exhibits (as seen below), and restaurant menus.

Markerless AR

Allows users to decide where content is placed and how it is interacted with. These AR experiences depend on accelerometers, cameras, and GPS to function and can be split into three types.

  • Location-based
    • Works with a smartphone’s accelerometer, camera, and GPS to determine when an experience is triggered and can be interacted with.
    • One of the best-known examples of this is Pokémon GO. When a player opened the app their smartphone would have Pokémon, gyms, and other features appear based on their location. Players could then interact by tapping on the features which appeared on screen. An example from Pokémon GO can be seen below, each Pokémon as well as various locations can be interacted with by tapping on them.

  • Projection-based
    • Also known as spatial AR, it delivers information to the user’s physical space with which they can interact within a designated area. Examples include holograms, topographical projections on a sandbox (seen below), and indoor visual positioning.

  • Superimposition Based
    • Involves a complete or partial alteration of a view with AR objects. For this type of AR to work the original object must be identifiable by the AR technology in order to be replaced.
    • Examples of this include IKEA’s "Place" (seen below) which allows you to use AR to see how pieces of furniture look and fit inside your home. This removes the worry your new couch will be too big once you get it home. Other examples range from Instagram and Snapchat filters to museums using AR to show how statues worn down over time looked in their heyday.


These apps are usually built by developers to assist their customers in solving day-to-day problems. A well-known example of this is Apple’s Measure app which allows users to measure dimensions of objects or space in rooms of their home.

Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) is a fully immersive experience which seeks to encapsulate the user into an entirely digital world apart from our own. These devices can range from cellphones and computers to simulators and capsules the user sits inside of. These experiences are an integral part of the metaverse as they allow the user to fully sense all it has to offer via sensors, sound, and visuals. VR allows for an experience where the user feels they themselves are moving within and interacting with the 3D space they’re in. There are three defined types of VR based on the level of immersion they provide.


Devices in this category provide the lowest level of immersion but allow the user to remain fully aware of their physical surroundings. Due to this they are sometimes not seen as “true” VR devices. Examples include PCs and smartphones metaverse platforms offer support on.


These VR devices provide realism through higher-end 3D graphics than non-immersive devices provide but still allow the user to have some situational awareness within their surroundings. These devices include high-resolution displays/projectors and simulators.

Fully Immersive

The final and “truest” form of VR, these devices completely immerse the user in the virtual environment leaving them little to no awareness of their physical surroundings (always use these in an open area!). These devices provide a complete believable experience via graphics, light, and sound. The typical head mount display (HMD) you picture is an example of this as well as capsules with built-in headsets and a chair for the user to sit on.

What does this mean?

For the end-user understanding this technology allows them to make decisions on how they will interact with content in the metaverse and Web3 sphere. Many developers are creating content for both AR and VR allowing many users to explore these new experiences using technologies they already own. By creating content PCs and smartphones can run in a less immersive manner, users will be able to get a feel for them prior to deciding to purchase VR or other technologies for a higher-end experience. VR technologies such as an Oculus headset currently (September 2022) start at around $399 depending on the amount of storage space desired for downloadable apps and games.