Week 9: Augmented & Virtual Realities

Have you seen this ad on the TV recently? The ad promotes Samsung’s latest release of their Virtual Reality (VR) headset and it comes with the tagline “DoWhatYouCant”.

That is exactly how VR appeals to the public, it allows people to do what they can’t do.

Virtual reality (VR) is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real life environment or situation. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing. This means that users can be put into any virtual situations they want, be it a horror movie, a cooking show or one where they’ll be flying a fighter jet in the sky.

Other than using VR as a form of entertainment, it can also be used for health care purposes! For instance, VR is able to provide exposure therapy for patients with anxiety disorders such as phobias or traumas.


Bravemind is one such VR application that treats post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military soldiers. By fighting wars in other countries, the soldiers risk/develop PTSD after returning home due to the stressful conditions they have been placed in. Bravemind gradually puts the soldiers in the same environment, allowing them to be desensitized to the situation. It also allows the clinicians to document the reactions of the soldiers to better assess their medical condition.

VR is often confused with Augmented Reality (AR), although they may seem the same, they are actually different.

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements atop an existing reality in order to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it. AR is developed into apps and used on mobile devices to blend digital components into the real world in such a way that they enhance one another, but can also be told apart easily.

This means that AR applications combine the real world with virtual elements, unlike VR where the created world is purely virtual. AR applications include popular apps such as Snapchat and PokemonGO.









Despite their differences, VR and AR do have their similarities. For instance, AR is also used in the medical field, such as providing remote surgery. The video below shows Proximie, an interactive augmented reality platform which enables surgical support to be seamlessly provided from anywhere in the world.

AR and VR can also be seen working together. For example, we can have the user immersed in a VR world while receiving haptic feedback which is considered part of the AR. Seeing how VR/AR products and applications are increasingly coming into use, I am sure there lies a bright future for this two realities.