Augmented and Virtual Reality are the current industry buzzwords. These are trends that are heavily being invested upon – whether it be in devices that support these technologies, apps to bring them into market, conferences to discuss and evangelise these concepts, tutorials and posts online etc. However, how many take the time to understand the true difference between the two, especially from a quality angle to help software testers, is a question. The industry, especially the untrained eye, continues to see both AR and VR synonymously, whereas there is a significant difference between the two despite all the similarities.
The core difference between the two conceptually, is about how augmented reality augments or enhances a real life experience, while virtual reality recreates or simulates a real life experience. Both rely heavily on the word “reality” but how they leverage reality is where the difference truly is. We had done a webinar for EuroStar a couple of years back on the topic of “Augmented Reality Testing” also talking about how augmented reality can be productively used to enhance a tester’s efforts, besides covering what it takes to testing AR apps.
Specifically looking at AR vs. VR from a testing angle, both may need extra hardware to support the testing process, especially VR. In case of AR, a lot more field testing will be required, compared to VR since it is all about enhancing a real world experience. Let’s say, you are in a safari and are hoping to see animals up close through zooming in on your safari vehicle’s window – this may call for real field testing at least minimally although you could simulate the real field too. Interestingly, you could even leverage VR to simulate the real field for you to take on AR testing – to that extent VR could come in handy in AR testing.
In case of VR, not much field testing may be needed – as the test bed is often a simulated experience of the real life scenario. Even if field studies are needed to create a realistic simulation, it is not often the tester’s onus in doing so, as the simulation is what the product itself offers.
From a test data stand point, VR may be more straight forward, as it is primarily a simulation of the real world. The tester will most likely try all scenarios that could possibly happen in the real world that either cannot be tried in real time or edge cases that are so rare to happen in real time. For e.g. a flight simulation path and varied routes and conditions for pilots to try in their training and ongoing learning efforts. VR is a great use for scenarios such as these which have a very huge adverse impact to try in real time. On the other hand, in case of AR, there is a need for lot more creativity in generating the test data as the enhancement possibilities are really endless, of course subject to the bounds of the scope of the AR app.
Testers themselves are slowly starting to gain a hold on what it takes to testing these two kinds of applications. The first step is to understand their true meaning and compare and contrast the two before delving into specific test scenarios. Also, as a tester, definitely continue to look for how to leverage the other technology to make the effort more productive – i.e. AR to help test VR and vice versa.