AR vs VR which one is better for games?

I’ve seen some of the games posted on the ARKit and Google Tango sections on this website and I was amazed what this AR technology can do. I think AR will have much greater appeal and be more popular due to its mobile portability and the fact that the virtual assets can be viewed and interact with the physical world itself. VR is different, it’s not portable, or at least most people will play VR in the comfort of their home, but VR throws gamers into a completely new world, what AR can’t do. Which technology do you think has better appeal and please explain why. The reason that I’m asking this is because I am planning of buying either a high-end VR headset like the Vive/Rift or go with the upcoming new iPhone 8, can’t afford both (Considering I’ll also need to upgrade my computer if I go with VR) Thank you.


Hi @Bjomberg, as you mentioned in your post, these are two completely different technologies. There are advantages and drawbacks for each one. I’m also looking forward to those ARKit games to come out, but keep in mind that you don’t need to buy the latest iPhone 8 (or whatever Apple decides to call it) in order to play ARKit-based games. From what I’ve read, any devices with A9 and A10 chips will work just fine including iPhone 6s, 6s Plus, 7 and 7 Plus, iPad Pro (9.7, 10.5 or 12.9) and iPad (2017). So this means that it might be cheaper than you actually thought it would be unless you want to buy the latest iPhone.

One of the great advantages of VR, in my opinion, is not just that it can render a whole new world where the player resides in, but it gives you a sense of scale. For example, the developer can build a huge environment and make you feel like a speckle in it, or alternatively, make the environment relatively smaller so you can feel big and powerful.

Once you put the VR headset and the headphones on you are in another place, all consumed by the audiovisual experience that the developer has planned for you. This is something that you not going to get with Augmented Reality technology because by its definition, it’s designed to integrate virtual with the projects physical world as seen by the device’s camera.

Of course, it would be great if we could play VR without wearing a bulky headset and as for now, we are still relatively early in this technology era. In the future, there will be Mixed reality headsets that will offer both technologies, they will be very slim and have all the hardware necessary within the headset itself. As for now, things are quite saturated, you see some standalone VR headset, early mixed reality headset, etc.

The great thing about Augmented Reality is its portability of course. It was designed from the get-go to be mobile because the experiences (not just games) are meant to be used not just at your home, but outdoors as well (e,.g. educational and travel AR apps). These are not really competing technologies in that sense. The fact that AR is mobile is going to help it spread much more quickly. Apple AR (ARKit) technology was designed from the ground up for mobile devices.

The question that still remains is how immersive and fun those AR games are actually going to be. This is not like a regular game where you sit down and play a game on the screen. Many of those games will be designed to integrate the virtual content on different types of physical objects, so players will probably be moving around with the device. Just take a look at Pokemon Go; that game just convinced people to get out from the comfort of their house and search for Pokemon outdoors. I can’t recall any game that has such an immense influence on gamers. It was a great inspiration for many developers, and just imagine what future games can achieve.

Of course, no headset means that your vision is not obscured and you don’t need to wear anything. Furthermore, because it’s mobile device based, AR games have access to many types of hardware like GPS (geolocation data), orientation sensor, etc. Those devices also have Internet connectivity built-in. The use of those complimentary hardware components can contribute to a very rich gaming experience.

So which one is better? depends on what type of experiences you want to experiment with first and whether the drawbacks of each one convinced you to choose one technology instead of the other.

Hope this helps.


Wow, thanks for for such an in-depth enlightenment. I have a question that arose based on what you’ve answered. If Apple Augmented Reality games will work with older devices like the iPhone 6S, how can those devices map the physical environment, they lack a depth-sensing sensor like Tango phones?

It seems that they just can, with the built-in camera and the supplementary AR software. I think this is what makes ARKit so more attractive than Google’s offering (Tango) is that ARKit uses the camera’s image without any additional hardware sensors at all. It’s very hard to see many Android smartphones putting those Tango AR sensors which elevated the cost and of course take more space. Just think about it, how many users would be able to install and play ARKit-based games from day one once iOS 11 is out? Yes, by the millions, now compare it to Tango.

Now more users means that more developers will target the ARKit platform and not Tango. There is a great article about that exact comparison on and I think it’s worth a read. I just can’t see Tango pulling it out but I can definitely see ARKit blooming with success. You can already see many developers showcasing their upcoming ARKit games and the hype is much higher compared to Tango.

I just want to add a bit more information regarding the ARKit technology and how it differs from Google Tango. From what I understood from this great article by Matt Miesnieks , ARKit can detect simple planes in the physical world using 3 dots average rather than using two cameras that can read a 3D scene. The calculation is made not using two cameras, but by calculating the delta between frames (or even more to get better accuracy). The thing is that when we are holding the phone with our hands, even the tiny movement between frames can be used to calculate the distance that moved between those frames. Now consider around 1000 sampling per second, and you can understand why this system can work really fluently in real-time 3D games.

Tango failed because of the complications in sensor calibration process for each OEM, the added cost to the phone and the fact that that implementation was power hungry and had a negative impact on the battery life.

You can read the entire article on Medium to understand more about it. So this is the answer for your question what it can @Bjomberg.

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Hello guys!

I am a developer that has worked on some VR and a lot of AR projects. Also, my team is producing the upcoming ARZombi experience (among many other titles), which we’ve been dreaming about making for years now.

It is fun times to be making and interacting with Virtual media, that’s for sure!

A couple of points I would like to add:

1.) Apple’s ARKit uses SLAM paired with IMU monitoring/estimation to maintain fairly robust tracking of the phone in 3d space. This means the camera estimates its movement by tracking its footage; it is very good but does require your environment to be illuminated.

2.) VR and AR can and will be achieved on the same platforms - as they are not distinct. Check out another early stage “proof of concept” we made months ago using an iPhone 6s that drops you in a randomly generated maze: .

3.) Headset based VR is more immersive right now as compared to smartphone, in my opinion, because of low pixel density in smartphone screens (among Manu other reasons).

either way you sick it, these technologies are very cool!



Hi @Michael_D,

I’ve seen the video you linked to. I personally don’t think we’ll get to see games that are designed solely for movement without having 1:1 scene view just because it’s obviously not safe. It does, however, shows how well the tracking system works.

I’ve seen a Tango video showing how the dual-camera system tracks and maps the entire 3D scene as the person moves around objects. So for example, there is no way to put a virtual object behind a physical one (utilizing transparency mask) because the engine doesn’t have data about the length of the physical object in the scene. Once the user goes around the object, the engine can track it and add it to the built scene. I also don’t see developers building a game where you have to scan the entire physical scene first, but I am not ruling this out as well. If I understand things right,

Can ARKit do the same, I mean, mapping an entire 3D scene as the camera moves around objects, so it can reproduce those 3D objects and can put virtual objects behind physical ones?


When can we play your game? I also wonder what happens if I pass through a zombie in the game, when I turn around, will I see it again behind me?

Collision detection in AR can be really cool. Just think about it, you move forward and you push the zombie away from you… kind of a cool idea! I wonder if they implemented it in their game.

“Out of the box” ARKit does not map out an entire 3D scene, but Apple has yet to reveal everything under the hood to developers (except, maybe, to “Peter Jackson”:wink:). With dual cameras (ideally spaced 3 inches apart) you can estimate depth and recreate your room’s features as a mesh to be used for occlusion - pretty much what depth sensors do like the kinect, the Tango, Hololens, Occipital’s Structure Sensor, etc.

One caveat about infrared depth sensing - it is confounded easily by more than one device in the same space, glass/mirrored surfaces, and other infrared light sources (i.e. sunlight).

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So how can this technology can be used to develop more complex games. Seems like it just poses many limitations for game developers. By the way, I have a great idea for a game that I’m holding in my head, maybe we can talk sometime. I really want it to come alive, but have no way to accomplish it myself, just with collaboration with people in the industry.

You can push zombies - this is totally possible. As of now, in ARZombie, you are getting damaged when you come into contact with zombie.

Also, you can manipulate (pickup, push, grab, throw) random virtual objects in the scene. There is an 80s Television in the game (we place in your house) that plays “Breaking News Updates” that will help build the story. We are thinking about allowing the player to change channels (possibly unlocking new storylines, etc).

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The limitations are being overcome by Apple’s aggressive push for Augmented Reality. What we are doing today with our pending projects, is just the starting point. When iPhone 8 comes out, I fully expect either dual camera OR infrared camera depth sensing - so occlusion won’t be an issue. Also, there will be a dramatic increase In processing power.

The key here is that Apple’s cores are further advanced than a mere 4 years ago (and much more efficient than non-Apple mobile processors) to process all that data and make awesome games. Mobile processing units are “passively cooled” meaning they typically can run in short sprints at very high speeds - i.e. show great content for short periods or low poly content for longer games. This is why many mobile games are still using 90s graphics.

Apple’s new line of phones are rumored to show higher quality graphics (more like 2004 era than 90s) while processing all environmental data at lightning fast speeds. Apple gets it; its going be a lot of fun creating experiences with this stuff!

(edited: Sorry probably getting a little too much into the engineering stuff. This is why I have great teammates like Sean, our Marketing guy in ARZombi forum, to focus on the fun stuff…lol)


I agree and if any company who is able to push the AR gaming industry forward this is Apple. I feel a bit sad for Google with their Tango platform being stuck with their somewhat restricted hardware requirements. This is why we don’t see any of the leading phone manufacturers introducing their phones with Tango capabilities. If it was the case, we would have seen the Galaxy S8, Note8 and other flagships featuring this technology along time ago. Once ARKit is out, those ARKit games will be in reach of millions of iPhone and iPad users who already own those supported devices.

If I was a developer, I would certainly aim for ARKit and not Tango. It’s all about the user base. Although I don’t have the statistics, I assume that there not many users owning a Tango-enabled device nowadays. Maybe Google will refine its technology so it can work with current high-end smartphones, but I haven’t found any information that says otherwise.

There is always room for competition. Don’t forget that you won’t find Apple AR on any other platforms, other than Apple’s. Microsoft also had a great technology in their hands, but they screw it up with that costly HoloLens headset. It’s like Microsoft and Google were just experimenting with their technology, while Apple going full power and has confidence in its technology.

Like @Michael_D said, the iPhone 8 might have a dedicated AR hardware that will support more advanced functionality. At least this will give developers an opportunity and a wider development time window to start developing AR apps for. However, if it was the case, I assume that we’ve already had this mentioned in the ARKit SDK.

You mean hundreds of millions! :slight_smile:

195 million is Apple’s estimate

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The revenue potential for developers is huge, especially for well-established early adapters of this technology… Google Tango what?!

@Michael_D according to the ARKit introduction video, there are some devices that support ARWorldTracking (relative position to the world itself), while others are not. Is this might be the difference between the upcoming iPhone 8 capabilities compared to those that only support 6DOF?

No, “ARWorldTracking” is what iPhone 6s and newer devices offers. You can download ARZombi and play with older phones, but they will not make use of ARKit’s pretty robust positional tracking.

i.e. it will merely be a game like the original “PokemonGo” - where the phone only uses IMU (Gyros) to try to trick you into believing AR content in in 3D space. IT works well if you only rotate 360 degrees, BUT when you walk around the illusion is destroyed.

There are 100s of zombie games for IOS and Android that do this already…