What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

Last Edited March 28, 2018 by Garenne Bigby in Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is becoming more popular and useful in our world today. It holds the possibility to improve livelihood in many different areas of existence. While it was previously a concept that was often shown in science-fiction movies and stories, it has become a reality in the last couple of decades. With ever-changing technology, AR has become conceivable to implement for different aspects of life from the medical field to entertainment. It is now possible for AR to be useful in many different professions and a person’s daily life.

As it becomes more widely used, the price of Augmented Reality systems is becoming more affordable. AR is a different concept than the more widely known Virtual Reality, and you might be wondering how it can be useful in your life. Here is just about everything you need to know about AR.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technological concept that involves “enhancing” the world around you to help a human complete a task in a more enjoyable way. If you have ever played the game Pokémon Go on your smartphone, then you have used AR before. This app enhances your environment and combines your location with Pokémon characters for you to collect and manipulate. This game was popular in the last year or so and is just one example of combining reality with computer-generated tasks.

While there are many ways to use AR, gaming is just one type. Gaming is more popular with Virtual Reality (VR), and AR can be used to complete tasks more efficiently. While AR can be great for gaming and entertainment, too, it also has many other uses in a variety of different professions and even in our daily lives at home. This type of technology will take your naturally occurring environment and basically add computer-generated features on top of it to give a better experience or simply more information.

The possibilities of ways in which we use AR really are endless, and as you are reading this, there are probably other uses of AR being imagined. AR devices can be activated by voice, movement or by manipulating controls or a touchscreen.  Augmented Reality is not quite the same as Virtual Reality, but it lies in the middle of VR and real life.


A Little Bit About Its History

Even though it is a newer technology, it is not a new concept. In fact, it was first mentioned in 1901 in L. Frank Baum’s novel The Master Key. When the main character in the story receives a “character marker”, the device allows him to see whether people are good or evil through the lens. This device seems to show Baum’s imagining of future devices that could take reality and a computer-generated view and combine them to gain useful information.

Then in 1957, a man named Morton Heilig invented a type of Augmented Reality that gave the user the opportunity to receive pictures, smells and sounds through a viewer. It was called the Sensorama Simulator and was patented in 1862. The machine enhanced a video being shown to the user. While this was not as similar to what AR is today, it was the first conceivable invention that would eventually lead to what we know today.

Fast forward to 1992, and a more traditional type of AR was invented by Louis Rosenberg that captures a better picture of what we use today. His device, Virtual Fixtures, allowed the user to wear an upper-body type of suit and binoculars to manipulate robot arms to complete a task. These types of Virtual Fixtures are used to simulate the practice of surgery and other training tasks that can improve a procedure. This was the first type of AR that has influenced other types of devices that we use today.


What is it Used For?

Now that you know where AR came from and how it has developed over time, you might be wondering what kinds of uses it has today. Here are some of the types of applications it can be used for in our world:

  • Military – In the military, AR can be used for training purposes. It can also be used during missions to help troops navigate through a battlefield.

  • Marketing – Many advertisers can pull in consumers by integrating the real world along with AR. This marketing technique can give current and potential customers an experience to convince users to make purchases.

  • Medical – In the medical field, AR can be used to train doctors and healthcare professionals, but it can also be used to get information from patients, perform surgical procedures more safely and accurately, and even relay important health information to patients.

  • Education – Since just about every young person has a Smartphone these days, using AR in education can be engaging for students. It allows them to interact with their environment in different ways and to learn more about it in conjunction with technology.

  • Criminal Investigation – Criminal investigators can also use AR to help solve crimes. They can use the technology to work with other authorities and experts all over the world. AR can be used to recreate the scene of a crime for trials and can help to ensure no clue remains a mystery. It is possible to use it to gather and collect evidence and even DNA information.

These are just a few ways that Augmented Reality is used in our world today. It can also be used in real estate, insurance practices, and even for small businesses to pull in customers. Another major way you might already be using AR without even knowing it is it you use a GPS to get you places. Using a GPS allows your cell phone or device to enhance your environment, so you can get where you need to go. You might be using AR in other ways, too, without even realizing it.


Why is It Important?

It is likely that Augmented Reality will impact the future in many different ways. Since new technology is always being developed, there is no doubt that new uses for AR will emerge over time. It is important to giving users a better experience from anywhere they are. Not only is it useful for helping consumers, but it has made an impact on the medical field and how certain procedures are performed. The use of AR during surgeries will allow a doctor to perform the procedure safely, which will reduce the possibility of issues that arise after an operation is over.

There are also a number of devices that can identify medical problems in patients. For example, there are already devices that are able to evaluate moles and other skin anomalies to determine if a patient has skin cancer. Other devices can be used to educate patients on different aspects of their health. While it does take the place of a doctor having to take the time to sit and talk with the patient, it can be just as accurate and even more engaging for the user.

By helping to make these tasks easier for human, AR can be important for the future of health and education. The possibilities of using AR in just about every aspect of life are without limits.


What is the Difference Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality?

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) may seem as though they are very similar. However, they are not. VR is technology that gives its user a completely different experience than what is happening in reality. While AR can help to enhance what is happening around you, VR takes you to a whole different place altogether. It can give you the experience of flying into space or show you what it might be like to visit the Eiffel Tower.

VR gives a different kind of experience and is mostly used for gaming and entertainment because it puts the user in a fictitious world that doesn’t necessarily exist. It can, however, be used for certain professions in terms of training, just like AR can also be used for training.

AR has many different uses in our everyday lives because it is not just used for gaming and entertainment. While VR can impact its users and give them the experience of being somewhere else, AR can help to enhance the reality a person experiences.

VR is the opposite of reality, while AR lies somewhere in the middle of what is happening around you and using computer-generated graphics that aren’t there in real life.


How Does It Work?

For AR to work, there are a few things needed. A device that is used for AR will have a sensor or camera, the ability to project images, a processing system, and the ability to reflect. For it to work, it will need to either be activated by a touch screen or pad or the ability to hear and follow voice commands. Usually, any Smartphone or Smart device has what it needs to use Augmented Reality.

The sensor or camera can gather real-world information about the user’s environment and use it to create the enhancement. By turning a real image into a digital image, the first steps to AR have taken place. The device must then be able to process the information, much like a computer. Smartphones or other Smart devices are able to process the information taken in by the camera or sensor. The processor helps the device to turn your real world into a digitally interactive environment.

Of course, different types of AR have slightly different processes, but for the most part, it all happens pretty similarly. The mirrors help your view of the virtual image so that you can see it as an almost naturally-occurring environment. By projecting the image, it is able to turn any environment into AR to be utilized the way the user intends.


What Are the Different Types?

There are some different types of Augmented Reality that might help you better understand its uses. There is Marker Based AR, Markerless AR, Projection-Based AR, and Superimposition Based AR. Here is what you need to know about each type and some examples of where you might find the different types in the technology you are using:

Marker Based AR

This type of AR may also be called “Image Recognition”. It involves a process where the device uses its camera capabilities to read a code, which then is turned into AR on the device. Take, for example, any time you have used a QR code to read an advertisement. This advertisement can come to life on your device after scanning the code. Without even knowing it, you are using a type of Augmented Reality every time you scan a QR code.

Markerless AR

This is the type of AR you might use if you are using a GPS. It allows you to be given information about the environment around you. In this case, the device will give you street names, locations of landmarks, and even obstacles or accidents as you are driving or walking. It helps you to interact with your environment better.

Projection Based AR

Projection Based AR uses light that is projected onto the surfaces around your environment that you can interact with. A more familiar type of this kind of AR is when a 3D image is projected into the air. In education, using an interactive whiteboard is considered this type of AR.

Superimposition Based AR

Superimposition Based AR is when a person can interact with their environment by taking pictures or videos and manipulating objects. It might be a type of AR that is used when someone is redecorating their home to see how different furniture might look like in different areas of your living room.


Who Might Find It Useful?

In a way, this is a trick question. Everyone can find AR useful in today’s world. Many children will grow up using Augmented Reality in their daily lives, both at home and at school. Professionals in healthcare, real estate, and even in the Armed Forces will find using AR useful. The average consumer would also find AR useful. By using GPS, experiencing virtual tours, and playing games that allow interaction with the user’s environment, AR is being used all around you.

The different types of AR play a large role in a person’s everyday life, whether you want it to or not. If you have young children, chances are, they are using AR in their schools by interacting with a Smartboard or other apps used for learning. In any profession where employees need to be trained to fly a plane or go on a dangerous mission, you can bet AR is being used to initiate that training because it is much safer than putting a person in harm’s way for drills.


Pros

There are many pros to using Augmented Reality.

  • It can be helpful to doctors, teachers, marketers, and many other professions. The possibilities of using AR are unlimited. Anytime technology can be used to complete a task; it will lighten the load of work for humans. This can allow people to focus their energy on more important areas of life.

  • It will also allow a person to have many different experiences from their very own living room. For example, when looking to purchase a new home or to redecorate the one you’ve got, Augmented Reality can be used to shop around or rearrange your furniture without leaving your house. This can be extremely useful for those who do not drive or to try something out before you buy.

  • It is a great way to train military members, doctors, and people in other professions where practicing surgery or shooting an enemy in real life can be extremely dangerous. By using AR, they can get some practice in before having to go out and perform their duties.


Cons

As with any new up and coming technology, there are drawbacks. While AR can certainly be useful, it must be used properly and moderately.

  • The more reliable humans become on technology, the less likely they are to interact with the real world and understand social situations. When people, especially children, seldom interact with people in real life, they are less likely to understand what to do when it comes to being around others. This can cause significant damage to social-emotional growth and health.

  • If AR becomes widely used, then it is possible people may not venture outside of their house often. Those who tend to be less social are more likely to end up with mental health issues. It is important when using AR to still get outside into the real world.

  • Parents of children using AR should also encourage them to use it sparingly as to not become addicted or socially inept. It is also important that parents monitor the use of technology for children to make sure what they are doing is appropriate and protects their identity and any personal information.

  • All technology comes with the possibility of being hacked by individuals seeking other people’s personal information. Personal information can get into the hands of the wrong people if it is not monitored properly. This makes it extremely important to have security features enabled when it comes to using AR. Many apps and games will allow users to choose what type of information is kept private.

Before using any AR technology, be sure to understand the privacy rules and regulations and monitor your settings. There is also typically a fear of using technology due to who might be privy to the data. Having data out there in the technological world can make it easier for authorities to track where you are and what you are doing at any time. When using AR, ensure that you are protecting your personal information, so you don’t become victim to hackers.


What is the Future of Augmented Reality?

No one can truly know what the future holds, but based on the rate AR is being developed, one can assume that it will continue to make an impact on our lives. When it comes to the Internet of Things, there are limitless possibilities of how Augmented Reality devices can be used to enhance life as we know it. As other types of technology such as Smartphones, tablets and other devices run by computers and the internet become more advanced, AR will most likely be involved in making the use of those technologies even better.

As of now, the goal of AR is to ensure that the ordinary aspects of life can be improved to give consumers, professionals, and the ordinary person a better experience that is aligned with their wants and needs.  This goal will continue to drive development in the future. With AR evolving more and more by the day, tasks will be able to be completed more thoroughly and quickly to enhance the life of the user for years to come.


Final Words

Augmented Reality is a technology that can be very useful to humans all over the world. It has many pros, and as more technology becomes available, it can help to enhance life as we know it. With any type of technology, it does have its limits and should be moderated to ensure that it does not take over our lives. You are most likely using AR without even realizing it. If you have a Smartphone, then you probably have some applications on your device that are combining the reality you see with computer-generated features.

AR can enhance and enrich our lives. Whether you are using it as entertainment or figuring out where you need to turn next on your road trip, it has become something that humans rely on to complete daily tasks. It is also an important concept that can help doctors, the military, and other professions get a job done accurately and in less time. Now that you understand more about Augmented Reality, you can figure out different ways it can enhance your life.

 

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite: http://garennebigby.com
Founder @dynomapper
Garenne Bigby is freelance Chicago developer and founder of DYNO Mapper with over 10 years experience in both agency and freelance roles in design, development, user experience, SEO, and information architecture.

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