The Metaverse vs Virtual Reality: Compared

metaverse vs virtual reality

The Metaverse vs Virtual Reality: Compared

Key Points

  • VR and the Metaverse are two concepts that are often confused or used interchangeably.
  • Virtual reality is the concept of creating a realistic 3D simulation in which the user can interact with the environment organically using VR goggles and other controllers.
  • Alternatively, the Metaverse is a concept dedicated to recreating the real world in a digital space so that users can interact with each other in both social and professional capacities, to the point where whole offices and work environments may exist in a digital space.

The era of virtual reality has been a long-awaited dream in the tech world. The idea of a data-driven digital world has been around almost as long as the concept of computing. Virtual reality itself has been a patented concept since 1961 named the Telesphere Mask (U.S. Patent No. 2,955,156).

The original patent states that the spectator would be given a complete sensation of reality from three-dimensional imagery with full color and 100% peripheral vision to binaural sound, scents, and even air breezes. Today, virtual reality, VR, and headsets lack access to air breezes and scents.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is now being used in healthcare to treat multiple conditions.

Virtual Reality is defined as a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a pseudo-realistic or physical way. It’s often accessed through what is known as a virtual reality head-mounted display, or VR HMD.

The concept of virtual reality has always been a computing dream. Even before the realization of true VR functionality, computing enthusiasts pushed the concept far beyond the limitations of their time. Even now, hardware accessories are made to push those limitations even further.

Colloquially, the term VR is modernly used to denote the use of a VR HMD and VR gaming.

What is a Metaverse?

The term ‘metaverse’ first appeared in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel, Snow Crash. It was used to describe a virtual space where humans used digital avatars to interact with each other and software applications in a three-dimensional virtual space meant to feel like the real world. The same concept has since been revisited in literature and video entertainment alongside VR/AR technology to interact with it such as shown in Minority Report.

Nowadays, the concept has evolved to include any technology that allows real-world people to interact with the digital world from smartphones and laptops to VR HMDs, AR Goggles, and smartwatches. The ultimate goal is to be a digital space where all internet activity can take place as a mirror of the physical world.

If you’re having difficulty imagining what that would be like, think along the lines of what’s represented in Ready Player One, Tron, the Matrix, or Wreck-It Ralph Breaks the Internet. While it is often associated directly with gaming, a metaverse can also be used for workplace productivity, business transactions, and even education.

So, what is THE Metaverse?

With a better grasp of what a metaverse is, you might find yourself wondering what “THE Metaverse” is. As it stands, it doesn’t exist. Nearly every tech company giant is developing its own iteration of the metaverse with entirely different focuses. Oculus, purchased by Meta (formerly Facebook LLC), showcases a simple version of this concept with a wide variety of games, entertainment, education, and productivity software available for the Meta Quest 2 standalone HMD.

Don’t let the name Meta fool you. Meta does not have exclusive rights to create the central access point for the Metaverse. In fact, the name is likely to change as technology develops even further. For now, there isn’t one metaverse, but instead, it’s a multi-metaverse.

With so many similarities, it’s not hard to confuse virtual reality with the metaverse. Especially because some companies have taken to using the two terms interchangeably. VR is definitely a major part of the metaverse, but it’s only one portion of the complete idea.

Right now, the Metaverse is a loose collective of immersive experiences that can be accessed with smartphones, laptops, VR HMDs (HTC Vive, Valve Index, Meta Quest), and AR Goggles such as Microsoft’s Hololens, desktops, and other computing devices. Most of these experiences are VR games, but there is also a wide variety of productivity suites that allow people to meet up in a virtual environment from the comfort of their own homes.

Oculus/Meta Quest 2

Oculus/Meta Quest 2

The Metaverse vs Virtual Reality: Side-by-Side Comparison

MetaverseVirtual Reality
What it is:XR conceptComputer interface technology
Primary use:Immersive interaction with the internet and computer softwareInterface technology that allows the user to experience software applications as a type of real space
Conceived: 20001961
Technical committee:Meta, Nvidia, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Valve, HTC, OculusOculus, HTC, Valve
Influential developers:Meta, Nvidia, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Valve, HTC, OculusOculus, HTC, Valve
Open format:YesYes
Technologies influenced:VR, AR, internet technology, WebXRMetaverse, AR, computers, Oculus, HTC Vive, Valve Index

As both concepts are closely tied together, it is difficult to focus on the true pros and cons between them. Regardless, here’s a quick assessment:


Allows immersive remote work and collaborationRequires VR or AR HMD to get the most out of it.
Pushes gaming to a new immersive levelThe metaverse is mostly filled with smaller experiences, so far.
Allows for interactive learning experiences
Breathes new life into the internet and social applications

Virtual Reality

Most immersive gaming technology everNot all HMDs are equal in quality and specifications
Allows access to metaverse spacesNot all VR experiences are made for premium comfort
Improves bandwidth of information access to computer users

The Metaverse vs Virtual Reality: What’s the Difference?

Both concepts are closely intertwined. VR and the Metaverse rely on each other to see continued success. Without easy-to-use VR/AR HMDs, the Metaverse is just the internet. VR can be used as a standalone experience that is completely separate from the online world. The key to the Metaverse is that the experiences are somewhat tied together through a visual and interactive experience. Virtual Reality applications/games do not need to be tied to any other source.

Another clear distinction is that access to the Metaverse isn’t reliant on VR or AR. It can be visited through a browser on any computing device. VR on the other hand can only be experienced with a VR HMD and VR controllers or hand-tracking. It may seem that both VR technology and the concept of a ‘metaverse are so deeply intertwined that there are only similarities and no differences, but there are.

VR and AR devices allow the users to interact with software in a real space in a physical way. This software interaction has many similarities to what is described as the metaverse, but it is not exclusive to it. One of the biggest differences between the two tech concepts is that a metaverse requires interconnected functionality between applications that represent a digital world. The future is likely to see our technology limitations pushed to a point where the differences between the digital world and the physical world are blurred.

The Metaverse vs Virtual Reality: Five Must-Know Facts

  • The Metaverse is not exclusively a Virtual Reality experience.
  • Virtual Reality requires the use of a VR HMD and a system of physical interaction.
  • Meta (formerly Facebook LLC) does not have exclusive rights to the Metaverse name.
  • Meta’s Quest 2 is currently the only standalone VR HMD (it doesn’t require a tethered PC).
  • Nvidia, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Steam/Valve, Meta, and nearly every other big name in tech are working on a metaverse to call their own.

Up Next…

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality – Discover the difference between AR and VR technology.

Complete Guide to the Metaverse – Learn more about the metaverse in our comprehensive guide.

Oculus Quest Pro vs. Meta Quest Pro – Find out how these two products differ in our side-by-side comparison.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Metaverse augmented reality or virtual reality?

The Metaverse will ultimately make use of both AR, augmented reality, and VR, virtual reality. As the Metaverse is a virtual space, it can be interacted with by any computer. It may not appear as exciting on a flat-screen as it is through a VR headset, but it is the same thing. Increased functionality of visual interface devices like VR HMDs gives the metaverse a more realistic feel and representation.

What is future of the Metaverse?

The future of the Metaverse is still up in the air. The term was coined to introduce a fresh view of what social and business interactions through AR and VR technology can be. Much of the confusion about what the Metaverse is comes from its currently undefined nature.

The biggest names in tech are all developing their own metaverse projects from Microsoft and Apple to Nvidia, Meta(formerly Facebook), and even Steam. Every one of these tech giants has a slightly different take on exactly what can be achieved with the Metaverse. Productivity, design, collaboration, gaming, shopping, and all our favorite internet activities can be performed in a more immersive way that makes use of natural senses to increase information bandwidth.

What are the Metaverse and virtual reality in simple terms?

Virtual Reality is a type of technology that allows for immersive interaction with software applications. The Metaverse is a conglomeration of three-dimensional computer-generated “spaces” that utilize virtual reality technology. The simplest way to define it is that Virtual Reality talks about the type of technology used to access software. The Metaverse is software that is made to be like a “virtual space”.

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