What’s the “Realer” Reality: Augmented or Virtual?

Dear House Rules,

Okay, I admit it. I can’t keep up with all the technology that’s changing how business is done, even in a historically traditional industry like pharmaceuticals. I don’t want to sound like an uninformed “old guy” at our next convention, but I don’t want to try to learn all about technology in a week either. Let’s start with something simple: what’s the main difference between “augmented reality” and “virtual reality?”


Low Knowledge About High Tech

Dear High Tech,

You couldn’t be more right that technology is changing the way we interact with our customers. Several new devices and tech-enabled experiences aim to improve patients’ understanding of their conditions or medications and enhance physicians’ empathy with patients whose symptoms are often difficult to adequately describe. These technologies seek to change the way our clients perceive their reality, whether that involves entering a virtual world or augmenting the existing one…


Virtual Reality (VR)

VR is the computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment; it can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a head mounted display with a screen inside.

All reality-altering technology changes the way we perceive the world in some way, but virtual reality (VR) completely alters the visual environment around us. How we interact with this virtual environment, however, depends heavily on the platform in use.1


  • Some VR headsets were designed to be used while the user stays seated and moves him- or herself through virtual space with a handheld controller. The screen is attached to the user’s face (by way of a headset) and covers a much larger portion of the field of vision, immersing the user in the virtual, 360-degree world1


  • Other VR headsets, such as the Oculus Rift, require both a computer (which the headset is cabled into) and separate controller to function. Essentially, it exists as an immersive screen you wear on your head to surround yourself with a virtual world1


  • On the lower end, other companies offer similar experiences like Google Cardboard—just at a lower overall quality (and price point). One advantage of these devices is that they aren’t cabled to a computer. Instead, they are powered by a smartphone for a quick-and-easy VR experience1


The easiest way to think of VR is this: it’s a completely separate and artificial world designed to change your reality and immerse you in it. Nothing is real, and everything is virtual. To put it simply: VR replaces reality.


AR: Augmented Reality

AR is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view; not a virtual environment, but rather computer-generated imagery on top of the user’s real view/environment.


Augmented reality (AR) takes your existing reality and changes aspects of it through the lens of a smartphone or iPad device, a set of glasses, or even a headset. With augmented reality you’ll always see what’s right in front of you, but with an added virtual layer on top of it:




  • AR can take a lot of different forms, but its most common use is pretty straightforward: the screen of our smartphones. You’ll find AR in all sorts of different smartphone apps. Quest Visual’s Word Lens finds text through your smartphone’s camera and translates it into a language of your choosing1


  • Google Glass was one of the first devices to take AR beyond the smartphone, but it became the source of controversy due to privacy concerns, chunky hardware, a high price tag, and a less-than-compelling feature set1


  • While apps like Glass may not have been a resounding success, other companies seek to breathe new life into the AR headset market and popularize this more passive method of interaction1


Think of augmented reality as a layer on top of your existing reality, not mixed into it. Basically, AR enhances reality. This kind of AR visualization can’t be interacted with as part of the larger environment, but only through your phone’s or iPad’s screen. You, however, control the content and marketing message.


We have enjoyed learning about these and other new technologies at Xavier Creative House – especially how to use them to market pharmaceutical businesses and their products or services to customers. In addition, it’s enabled us to add meaningful technologies to our service offerings.


At Xavier, we’d love to discuss our capabilities and your business needs at a quick meeting or a more official presentation. Give us a shout via email, social media, or our website, and let us show you what we can do!


Reference: 1. https://next.reality.news/news/whats-difference-between-ar-vr-and-mr-0171163/. Accessed July 5, 2018.

About Xavier Creative House

Founded in 2013, Xavier Creative House (XCH) is an award-winning healthcare creative agency specializing in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device. XCH’s global team of brand builders and healthcare marketers, tech-savvy go-getters, and innovative dream-vetters are passionate about the big idea that changes behavior in the healthcare marketplace. They believe life is about connections and that healthcare is about life. That is why XCH delivers bold and evocative creative solutions, amplified by meaningful technology, to energize brands and authentically connect with patients and HCPs.

Where Healthcare Brands Live®

For more information, contact

Sunny White
Founder & CEO of Xavier Creative House