The word augment means to make something greater by adding to it. Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes or layers virtual information onto real life. The digital information enhances, makes greater, our ability to navigate and explore the real-world environment.
Imagine pointing your phone and measuring the length and height of a fish tank. Or looking outside and seeing today’s weather forecast appear before you on the windowpane.
Augmented Reality (AR) versus Virtual Reality (VR)
Both VR and AR produce immersive experiences. The virtual-reality user interacts with imaginary elements created or designed by a computer through a pair of goggles. They do not engage with the real world.
The augmented reality user sees the real world but with the addition of computer-generated images that are overlaid on various real-world objects. They are aware they are in the real world. They use a smartphone or a wearable device, such as AR glasses, that contains components and software that recognize displays digital images onto an object.
The spectrum of technologies spanning the real and virtual worlds
Windows Mixed Reality, consisting of the Microsoft HoloLens running on Windows Holographic software platform, uses augmented reality to interact with digital content in the form of holographic images.
Google Glass is another example of a device using augmented reality.
All the technology leaders are investing in AR in some way or other and are working to leverage the technology’s capabilities to serve mainstream audiences.
Google’s Project Tango and Microsoft’s AR platform Windows Mixed reality provide tools to explore AR and to develop AR applications for Android and Windows respectively.
Other major tech giants Amazon, Facebook and Apple are working to bring AR services and tools.
Cloud and Technology giant IBM is also doing extensive researches in AR space https://www.research.ibm.com/articles/augmented-reality.shtml
IBM’s collaboration with NY Times designed AR application – T Brand Studio AR which allows users to explore statues in AR of great American scientists in over 150 locations around the U.S.
Application is available for Android and IOS.
AR in apps and games
Mobile applications leverage augmented reality for an immersive experience. For example, online furniture shopping application PepperFry uses augmented reality that allows the camera on your mobile phone to place augmenting objects in your home, enabling real-time product visualization. The picture below shows the placement of an augmented television stand using a mobile phone’s camera.
Perhaps the most popular application of AR to date has been the Pokémon Go application, which uses AR for the location- based, interactive gaming experience.
Future of AR
Augmented reality offers a wide array of opportunities and possibilities for many different industries.
- Product teams will be able to create complex design structures.
- Blueprints for building construction can be designed using AR-enabled devices.
- Devices such as HoloLens are already being used for Mars exploration from the International Space Station.
- Enable application developers to build more content interactive applications.
- Head-mounted displays can detect objects and intelligently derive shipping information and costs of products.
- Allows car and auto manufacturers to explore, maintain and repair complex components within the vehicle.
Check out the app store on your mobile phone for the ever-growing list of AR applications.