Virtual Reality versus Augmented Reality in Training

The big difference between these two technologies is that Virtual Reality prepares learners to perform a task. Augmented Reality actively assists learners in performing a task. As with all rules, there are certainly exceptions, but this is a good starting point for discussion.

Virtual Reality training completely immerses the learner in an environment and allows them to learn and practice skills before entering the real environment. This can be particularly useful if the real environment involves some danger (for example, working with hazardous chemicals or in areas where safety is a concern). Virtual Reality training allows the user to experience the training in a way that reduces or eliminates the environmental danger.

Augmented Reality training provides guided assistance to the learner as they’re performing a particular task. This can be very effective for parts assembly, mechanical review, and anything else that involves a prescribed process. Augmented Reality can provide up to date, on demand instructions. Some more advanced uses of AR recognize the step the user is performing and provides relevant, contextual information. This can include anything from a text overlay describing the next step to highlighting the correct parts in the user’s field of view to a fully animated demo of the process.

So how do you choose the right technology? First, they’re not mutually exclusive. Many companies today use both VIrtual and Augmented Reality in their training. But in making a selection between the two technologies, here are some great questions to ask to help determine the right technology for you.

When do you want to administer the training? If you want to do the training before people perform the task, then VR is likely a good solution. If the training should happen while the learner is performing the task, then AR is a more likely candidate.

What is the purpose of the training? If the goal is familiarization or if your goal is to provide a variety of different scenarios or options (such as how to fix a widget under ideal circumstances, with a part missing, or in poor visibility), then VR will likely fit that bill. If you want to guide learners on the job, AR gives you the tools to do that.

Do users need access to the actual environment during the training? If it can be handled in a simulated environment (with simulated props, etc.), VR is great for that. If having the exact props is crucial, AR will give users the blended environment necessary to see the real world and the informational layer provided by the technology.