VR is for learning, AR is for doing

Jeff Dieffenbach


The promise of augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR, respectively) is nearly unlimited. AR and VR won’t just be for entertainment, however … they’ll likely revolutionize learning.

There’s a tendency to think of AR (overlaying graphics onto a view of the real world) as a precursor to VR (a completely virtual world). For AR, think Google Glass and Pokemon Go. VR, on the other hand, conjures up more sophisticated, fully immersive video games (Fortnite, anyone) and books/movies such as Ready Player One.

When it comes to learning, I see the line between AR and VR differently. At risk of oversimplifying, VR lends itself to “learning before doing.” That is, one might use a VR simulation to practice a task in a safe space, for instance.

AR, on the other hand, promises to shine in the manner of “learning while doing.” Imagine an aircraft engine technician with a maintenance task in front of her. Rather than toggle her attention between a manual or video and the engine itself, she would be better served having an overlay of the engine schematic and the service steps projected onto the engine. In this way, her actions would be guided by the AR “assistant” without the need to disengage from then re-engage with the work at hand.

VR is for learning, AR is for doing.