HTC Vive
There is a world full of fun waiting with Augmented and Virtual Reality. Both can have similar enjoyment characteristics, but do very different things in the end. Give both a chance and I’m sure you’ll see that there is one that you’ll enjoy over the other.

Before you immerse yourself in the world of either form of environment-shifting-entertainment, it’s important that you see what both can do. Once you’re ready, Best Buy is here to help with your new hobby. May is VR month, and there’s never been a better time to get acquainted!

What is the difference between Augmented and Virtual Reality?

When I was growing up, Virtual Reality was this really weird gaming medium where everything was made of odd, sharp, polygon graphics with bright colours, and for some reason always involved robots. Nintendo tried to give us the Virtual Boy in the 90s, but its two colour red and black display didn’t do us any favours. Honestly, for the most part, it just gave us headaches when playing with it (both figuratively and literally.)

Man playing VR Horror Game

Nowadays, Virtual Reality has become much more enjoyable and much more intense than what we knew two decades ago. Picture yourself putting on a headset that transports you into a completely different headspace and environment. You can close off the outside world and immerse yourself in a new experience. Whether you’re standing at a demo or just sitting in your living room with a headset on, the purpose of Virtual Reality is basically to transport you visually to somewhere else.

Augmented Reality is another story. Augmented Reality exists to add things to your existing environment that you can interact with in a variety of ways. Augmented Reality takes your living room, kitchen, or playspace and brings virtual objects into it. These objects either co-exist or interact with you directly. Augmented Reality isn’t something completely new. In fact, the PlayStation 3 had an Augmented Reality series called “The Book of Spells” that debuted back in 2012. I’d say Augmented Reality itself didn’t find its first mass niche until Pokemon Go debuted a couple years ago and you were suddenly catching Charmanders off your family dog in the middle of the living room.

What can you do with a virtual reality headset?

Virtual Reality is currently primarily a gamer’s world. PlayStation 4 has a VR headset, and there are multiple VR games out for mobile and PC that can do things like situate you in the middle of a bank robbery, favourite TV show scenarios (like Star Trek: Bridge Crew), or any one of the dozens of games that throw you into some place haunted and attempt to scare the headset off of you.

Star Trek Bridge Crew
Virtual Reality can be more than a fancy video game here and there though. Different companies are using virtual reality in order to expose you to new experiences every day without leaving your living room. There are tons of different things that you can do right now with different apps and programs available on places like Steam.

Google Earth is one of the best examples. Using Google Earth’s app in conjunction with a Virtual Reality headset, you can scour different parts of the globe you may not otherwise be able to see or visit. You can take VR tours of eras of the past, and VR is even assisting medical students in learning more about the human body (and taking virtual tours while they’re at it).

Google Earth VR

While none of these experiences can beat the real feeling of the wind brushing through your hair on a roller coaster, or stepping off a cruise ship in the Caribbean, there’s still nothing like taking those moments of relaxation from the comfort of your recliner and seeing something you’ve never seen before. By the way, if your idea of relaxation is meditation, there are VR headset apps for that too!

What can Augmented Reality do for you?

Jedi Challenges Darth MaulThe most simple thing you can do with Augmented Reality right now is (you guessed it) game. Yes, Pokemon Go is still going strong, but there are other really good (and much more sophisticated) AR applications out there. My absolute favourite AR application is Lenovo’s Jedi Challenges. Anybody who’s ever watched the Star Wars movies has probably wanted to wield a lightsabre, and Jedi Challenges allows you to do it. Using your smartphone, a headset, and a handheld device, you can fight the likes of Darth Maul, the Seventh Sister, and even Vader himself in the comfort of your living room. Since it’s an AR app, the objects projected in your field of vision are directly wherever you’re playing. This means that you’ll see Darth Maul doing flips in front of your TV and over the cat. While the app isn’t sophisticated enough to interact directly with objects in your environment yet, it’s probably not that far off to be honest.

Augmented Reality isn’t always fun and games though. AR is taking on some really practical uses too. Take medical students, for example. While Virtual Reality can take you on a guided visual tour of what the human heart might look like, an Augmented Reality app can pop up a model of a human heart in front of you and allow you to view and interact with it.

Heart-Augmented-Reality

AR is taking shape in retail spaces as well. Best Buy Canada’s iPhone App (available in the Apple Store) has new AR functionality for some items, with more being added when available. When AR models are available for an item in the app, you can place the item in your living space to see its scale, function, and make a decision if it suits you! For example, are you curious how that new sectional sofa will look in your living room, or how that stainless steel fridge will look in your white kitchen? That’s where a good AR app will help you make those choices.

Oculus Rift

Finding a good Virtual Reality Headset

Finding a good VR Headset doesn’t have to be difficult. Thankfully, Best Buy has made this decision easy for you by separating Light and Premium tier headsets.

If you’re really not committed to the idea of buying a serious VR headset and want a starter headset first, you can get one pretty easily without breaking the bank, like the Noon VR Headset or the ReTrak Utopia 360 headset (which also comes with the ability to buy some different accompanying bundle products.) Here’s the line of less serious Virtual Reality Headsets available at Best Buy.

If you’ve already experienced VR and want something a little bit beefier and more serious for your mobile platform, Best Buy’s next step up includes offerings like the extremely popular Samsung Gear VR Headset, and more from ReTrak. Here’s the line of premium mobile-related VR Headsets available at Best Buy.

However, the real treats are the more premium tethered sets that are meant for PC use. These sets have much more secure harnesses and are geared more toward serious gamers. These are the types of headsets you want if you’re running through that Haunted House or playing fairly intense VR games. This is where you’ll find the Oculus Rift, the VR headset that captured gamer imaginations a few years back, and the HTC Vive, which is one of the most comprehensive sets out there, boasting one of the largest fields of vision and its own set of controllers too. Here’s the entire line of tethered VR headsets now available at Best Buy.

Before committing to a Premium Tethered VR headset though, be sure that you’re buying something your PC can handle. Be sure to check minimum system specs before you commit to anything, as these headsets can be pretty resource heavy.

If you’re still unsure of which way to go, check out this Virtual Reality buying guide to help you make a decision.

Dedicated AR Headsets are out there, but they’re not as commonplace unless they’re being used for a resource-heavy application. The most common example you’ll see is the Lenovo Mirage. This is the set that you receive with the Jedi Challenges bundle.

That’s a very quick look at the world of Virtual Reality vs. Augmented Reality and how you can have fun with either. I’m a bigger Augmented Reality fan myself. What about you? Chat in the comments section below!

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Matt Paligaru
Emerging Technology and Baby
A technology nut at heart, I'm always interested in what makes our lives easier and helps us tick day to day in 2017. Whether Home Automation, toys, games (board and video) or everything in between, I'm always looking around the corner to see what drives us in today's day and age. I've also received child passenger safety certification from the British Columbia Automobile Institute (BCAA) and am father to a growing toddler. Keep an eye out for our carseat reviews together!

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