//When to Use Virtual Reality (VR) Instead of Augmented Reality (AR)?

When to Use Virtual Reality (VR) Instead of Augmented Reality (AR)?

VR, AR, MR, XR — those are just a few of the acronyms used to talk about exciting new immersive technologies. InstaVR is the leading web-based VR solution for creating, publishing, and distributing VR applications. But how do you know when you should be creating VR apps instead of the other options like AR?

This is a question we often get from companies new to emerging technology. They’ve read up on the technologies, but aren’t sure where to start.

There are some obvious big differences in AR & VR — Augmented Reality (AR) is still largely phone-based, mainly used for placing CGI objects over real-time video, and requires an always-on, strong internet connection. Virtual Reality (VR), by contrast, can be published across a wide range of devices (headsets like Oculus Go/Quest and Gear VR, phones, Google Cardboard, WebVR, and much more), is completely immersive, and doesn’t necessarily require a real-time data connection (ie can be run offline).

Interestingly, the same department within a company may use AR and VR for similar but very different purposes. For instance, an energy company may overlay AR onto different machinery to show how they work or important reminders. That same company would use VR to on-board new employees giving them 1st person POV explanations of how to use equipment. Both AR and VR are being used to train employees in this example, but the former is being used in the field, while the latter is being used to train employees before they even start their job.

Below, we’ll cover the three top reasons you’d want to develop using VR (and using InstaVR specifically!) over AR. It doesn’t mean you’ll never use augmented reality, but that if you need these three things as part of your XR experience, you’ll want to use VR. Let us know if you have any questions and best of luck building/publishing/distributing all your Virtual Reality apps!


AR is largely limited to mobile phones now, with some AR headsets also in use. Unfortunately, some of the AR hardware companies like Daqri have already shut down. But even the ones that remain and have pretty good traction, such as Microsoft Hololens, have a major shortcoming — immersion.

VR is basically totally immersive, if done properly. The Oculus Go and Oculus Quest and Varjo and Vive all make you feel like you’re immersed in an environment. With the Quest, for instance, you can move around in 6 Degrees of Freedom, entering a virtual environment and moving around in it.

AR, on the other hand, is more of an overlay on the existing world in front of you. The aforementioned Hololens, for example, only allows for a 52 degree Field of View, and that’s in the newer iteration. The Oculus Go and Oculus Quest, by comparison, have a 90+ degree FOV.

So why is immersion important?

VR is used for a variety of things like employee training and sales presentations. It’s important in those two scenarios to have complete attention and the feeling you’re totally immersed in an environment, be it filmed on a 360-degree camera or created using CGI.

The lack of immersion in AR means you’re subjected to the same distractions and real-world focus issues that hurt real life training, sales presentations, etc. AR basically places you in your same environment, but then augments it a bit. If there’s outside noises or people moving around, it will still grab your attention. Furthermore, because of the limited field of view, even a largely simulated AR environmental overlay won’t be nearly as impactful as fully CGI VR, meaning the recall is likely to be lessened.


AR is great for adding information or graphics over the real world. It’s not great at transporting you mentally to a new location.

Take for instance our client TUI Group. They use InstaVR to show off their excursions at hotel locations. You can put on a VR headset and be virtually immersed in visiting historical locations or swimming with turtles. You can mentally be immersively transported to locations outside of the hotel grounds.

AR simply can’t do that. You can overlay some digital turtles in the existing field of view of the guest. But you can’t truly convey what it’s like to swim with turtles without using fully immersive VR.

So why is the transportive nature of VR important?

Because VR can be used for training, entertaining, etc without relying on a user’s location. The person at Sea-Air-Space Exposition outside Washington, DC can use an InstaVR-generated app to be transported onto a Navy ship and into a Navy Fighter Jet. You simply can’t do that in AR!

The location independence of VR is very important. It’s what makes VR training in a classroom as powerful as in-person field training. The ability to transport a person anywhere in this world — or even to other planets! — is a big draw for using VR.



AR is dependent on continuous and powerful internet connectivity. It’s taking the real world in front of you, placing it on a mobile phone or on AR glasses, and then adding additional digital elements. If you don’t have decent internet connectivity, that’s not possible. And while 5G will definitely help internet become more widespread for non at-home devices, there’s still locations and times where internet access is questionable at best.

VR, on the other hand, can be downloaded and run completely offline. For most InstaVR users, that’s actually preferred. This is great for training, for presentations at conferences, in school classrooms, etc. All places where easy internet access isn’t always guaranteed.

Price also remains a bit of a stumbling block for AR. The popular AR headsets like Microsoft Hololens ($3,500) and Magic Leap ($2,300) aren’t feasible for large-scale deployments. Walmart can deploy 17K Oculus Gos for Associate training because they cost only $200 per headset.

Also, with AR, you’ll need to create 3D CGI elements. VR, by contrast, can be done using a lower-cost 360-degree camera (ie the Insta360 One X), an InstaVR Pro subscription, and any number of headsets (from the $200 Oculus on up to the $7K Varjo).

Why is internet connectivity and cost so important?

Because VR is still the best approach for large-scale employee deployments, if using a headset. It’s not guaranteed that all employees have mobile or WiFi access. And for deploying emerging technology to say 500 employees, it’s just much less expensive an investment for Oculus Gos than Microsoft Hololens (literally 15x cheaper per headset).

Ultimately, we’re fans of AR & VR, but it’s important to know what your goals are and which technology can help you reach them. If you’re not sure, reach out to our Sales or Customer Success teams, and we’re happy to discuss the different technologies with you!

2019-09-20T19:54:04+00:00 September 20th, 2019|General|