Differences between augmented reality and virtual reality

7 Minutes


There is a lot of confusion among users of medical marketing services about the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality. In this post we will tell you how you can recognise both options.

Virtual Reality (VR) is when the sights and sounds around you are replaced with virtual, computer-generated ones. The environment that results can be quite natural (being at a surgery room) or completely imagined (being in a video game). VR surrounds you in 360 degrees and three dimensions to drive home the illusion. In its most ambitious forms, its places are fully navigable as you move through them and use your hands to manipulate objects. Augmented Reality (AR) is when you look at the real world and see it overlaid, or augmented, with location-specific information and graphics. A digital layer is superimposed on the physical world, integrating the physical, real environment with virtual details to enhance or “augment” the real-world experience.

old man using a virtual reality device

Technology change keeps on accelerating

Despite the differences between virtual reality and augmented reality there are a number of advantages to consider for the healthcare sector. The computing power and relative ease of access to VR/AR technology and systems are growing at breakneck speeds.

Healthcare and medical fields will be among the first to embrace AR in a big way. In fact, today there are many nurses and doctors interacting with AR applications every day to improve patient education and outcomes.

Google Glass was the first AR platform to get wide public exposure, however, it was not a huge success because of the high-cost limited functionality, and perception problems — it did not look attractive. Beyond the consumer market, Google Glass has found a home in the enterprise and the healthcare field, demonstrating the importance of AR even at that early stage of development.

Many companies are now hard at work laying the foundation of the AR revolution. For example, Microsoft’s Hololens is hugely impressive and is seeing wide adoption throughout the industry and the healthcare space.

Medical VR is an area with fascinating possibilities, for patients’ lives and physicians’ work. Although the field is relatively new, there are increasingly great examples of VR having a positive effect.

Watching operations as if you wielded the scalpel, relaxing patients with Medical VR, real conferences with virtual reality for an enhanced experience and speeding up recovery in physical therapy are part of the uses of VR in medicine.

AR in medicine

Healthcare workers have been quick to realize the benefits of AR technologies. Education is an obvious application of augmented reality in the healthcare field. Healthcare workers have to learn a huge amount of information about anatomy and the way the body functions. AR applications give learners the ability to visualize and interact with three-dimensional representations of bodies.

As well, surgeons use several techniques to visualize the area on which they are to operate, but augmented reality, which can project three dimensional representations of the patient’s anatomy into the surgeon’s field of view, is likely to improve accuracy and outcomes for patients. Also, the advances in network technology and augmented reality will radically change the quality of life for seniors and others who depend on the healthcare industry.

VR in medicine

From developing new life-saving techniques to training the doctors of the future, VR has a multitude of applications for health and healthcare, from the clinical to the consumer.

Medical training: currently, medical students learn on cadavers, which are quite different from a live patient. Virtual Reality can transport you inside the human body to access and view areas that otherwise would be impossible to reach.

Patient treatment: VR allows patients to virtually step into a 360° VR reconstruction of their anatomy & pathology. The result is an enhanced understanding of the treatment and consequently higher patient satisfaction. As well, mental health, pain management and physical therapy are other fields in which patients can benefit from VR.

Medical Marketing: marketing was the most popular initial application of VR across all industries, and it continues to be an extremely powerful and effective marketing tool, as the potential for VR is limited only by the creativity & ingenuity of those creating and applying the technology.

Disease awareness: the headset can replicate some of the effects of an illness to let the people experience first hand the daily struggle of patients with chronic diseases.

There is an enormous opportunity for businesses that understand augmented reality and have the vision to create innovative new AR products and applications, and in 3DforScience we help you achieve it.


3DforScience is a scientific communication company specialized in digital content for the pharma and biotech industries. Our passionate creative team works alongside an in-house scientific team to provide cutting-edge medical animations, scientific illustrations, virtual reality, etc.

Our extensive experience within the field ensures all the content we produce is scientifically accurate, innovative, engaging, and pitched at the right level for the target audience. Would you like to bring your scientific messaging to life? Contact us. We would love to help you create something unique

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