Augmented reality merges virtual content with the real world. Video See-Through AR uses cameras to capture the real world. The video is combined with virtual content and shown to the user with a VR headset.
The technology is more sophisticated than just capturing a video. It’s necessary to reconstruct the 3D geometry and estimate the lighting in the scene.
Another name for this technique is Passthrough AR. The opposite technology is optical see-through, where the real world is visible through a transparent display.
What’s the benefit?
Price: Augmented reality headsets are impressive but expensive. Virtual reality headsets, on the other hand, start with very low-budget models.
Distribution: A much bigger audience is reachable when publishing for a VR headset. Especially the consumer market only exists for VR. AR headsets are primarily used in industrial environments.
Bright virtual content: AR headsets have the problem that virtual elements look dark and transparent. With video see-through the real world can be fully covered by virtual objects.
What’s not so good?
Far from the real view: Obviously, a video is not as good as seeing the real thing. The field of view is smaller. The resolution is smaller. There are distortions and blurriness. And there is a small lag.
Eye strain: I do not like the passthrough mode for a long time. Sometimes it’s good to see what’s going on in the real world. But if the real world is not needed for a task, I always disable passthrough and continue with plain VR.
Passthrough AR is useful for providing AR apps as long as real AR headsets are not widely available. And it’s better for applications that largely focus on virtual content and mixed reality is just a small add-on.