What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is a technology that allows users to interact with digital content in the real world.
This can be anything from a simple game or app to more complex systems that allow people to view and manipulate 3D objects.
While this technology has been around for a few years, it has only recently started to gain mainstream adoption.
As more companies realize how augmented reality software can help their user base with various tasks, we are likely to see even more widespread adoption in the near future.
In this article, I’ll go over some of the basics of augmented reality and how it works while also discussing some potential applications of this technology.
Let’s get right into it.
AR systems generally consist of three main components:
- A display device, such as a smartphone or tablet
- An AR software application
- A “marker“, which is an image that the software can recognize
When all three components are combined, the user can see computer-generated images overlaid on their real-world surroundings.
Unlike virtual reality, which uses artificial intelligence to create a whole new environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and adds to it.
AR systems also use compasses and calculations to track the user’s location and orientation.
This information is then used to generate the appropriate AR experience.
Whether on mobile devices or head-mounted displays, the natural world environment is displayed through AR glasses (also known as HUD) and AR apps, with computer-generated objects superimposed onto it.
This brings the existing natural world environment into the digital world and vice versa, allowing for a more immersive and interactive experience.
An augmented reality AR system also enhances the user’s view of the natural world with computer-generated images, video, or audio.
When it comes to understanding how augmented reality works, much of the work is done using head-mounted displays that ensure a consistent AR experience.
There are various versions and models of these wearable devices, with some AR applications and companies developing their custom hardware.
Creating an AR augmented reality experience starts with the proper hardware.
With virtual and real objects mixed, an AR device comprises hardware that can track the user’s movements and render 3D images.
Said differently, AR devices use the resources offered by such hardware to take real-world environments and add computer-generated elements on top of them.
From the right AR headset to the required computing power, hardware is essential to a great augmented reality experience.
Software is equally as important when it comes to having digital visual elements correctly superimposed on the real world.
An AR software application uses algorithms to track the user’s movements and generate the appropriate response that makes up the experience.
As such, the right software can make all the difference between an immersive and a disappointing augmented reality experience.
Augmented Reality Technology Limitations
First off, this technology is still in its early days.
While real-time overlaying of items through heads-up displays is an excellent concept, and augmented reality apps are used in specific scenarios and industries, there are still some limitations for general apps.
In everyday life, real-life animations created using computer graphics can look out of place when superimposed.
As such, developers must be mindful of how they use artificial reality technology and ensure that the final product does not look jarring or fake.
Additionally, available AR devices are currently expensive and require quite a vast amount of computing power.
This means that developers must carefully consider who their target audience is and whether they would be willing to invest in the required hardware.
As more real environment situations are mapped out and developed, we can see how particular computer-generated objects would look in our natural world surroundings.
This would allow for a more immersive experience tailored to our individual preferences.
With various Android models along with Apple iOS, the iPhone, and the iPad all having apps developed that can run on them, we will be able to use augmented reality more in our everyday lives.
With cheaper smart glasses becoming even more compatible with these devices, we will also be able to have a better hands-free experience when using augmented reality.
Let’s now look into the difference between augmented reality and virtual reality.
1. Virtual Reality Creates An Artificial Environment, While Augmented Reality Adds Digital Elements To A Physical World Setting.
Digital information is constantly being produced and consumed.
In the virtual world, this data is used to create an entirely simulated world.
The artificiality of the virtual environment sets it apart from our natural reality.
In augmented reality, on the other hand, computer-generated information is layered over our real-world surroundings.
2. Virtual Reality Is Typically Experienced Through A Headset, While One Can Experience Augmented Reality Through Devices Like Smartphones Or Glasses.
A key difference between virtual and augmented reality is how we experience them.
Virtual reality simulations are usually experienced through a headset, which cuts off our view of the real world and replaces it with the virtual one.
This headset is either standalone or connected to a computer or gaming console, which runs the software that produces the simulated environment.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, can be experienced through devices like smartphones or smart glasses.
These devices overlay computer-generated information onto our view of the real world, allowing us to see both realities simultaneously.
3. Virtual Reality Is Mostly Used For Entertainment, While Augmented Reality Has More Practical Applications.
Virtual reality is often used for entertainment, from immersive 360-degree videos to rock-climbing game simulations.
This is because virtual reality simulations can be highly realistic and businesses can use it to provide an immersive customer experience that is unlike anything else.
Augmented reality, on the other hand, has more practical applications.
For example, it can be used for navigation, training simulations, or shopping.
With total immersion into virtual reality, some simulations can be incredibly realistic.
For example, virtual tour software can be used to explore famous buildings or landmarks without ever having to leave home.
Virtual reality headsets can track our movements and change the simulation accordingly.
However, this level of virtualism is not possible with augmented reality.
This is because augmented reality devices, like smart glasses, do not entirely block out our view of the real world.
As a result, the computer-generated information is more on the realistic side.
Despite its relatively young age, there are already several different ways augmented reality is being used.
Some of the most popular use cases for AR include the following.
- Education and training: Augmented reality is used in education to create more immersive and interactive learning experiences. For example, the app Quiver allows users to point their phones at a piece of paper and see 3D models of animals come to life on various interfaces.
- Retail: IKEA Place is an example of how AR may be utilized in retail. This app allows users to place actual 3D models of IKEA items in their homes.
- Marketing and advertising: AR is also used for marketing and advertising purposes. For example, L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app allows users to see how different makeup products would look on them in real-time.
- Architecture and engineering: AR is used by architects and engineers to create more immersive design experiences. For example, the app HoloBuilder allows users to see how a building will look once it is completed.
- Gaming: AR gaming is one of the most popular uses for this technology. One example is Pokemon Go, which allows users to catch virtual creatures in the real world.
- Public safety: AR is also used for public safety purposes. For example, the insurance company Allstate launched an AR experience to help better fire safety plans in the home.
One of the most commonly known AR glasses is the Google Glass.
As one of the first AR glasses, various companies learned a lot from its development.
Many of its features have been integrated into other augmented reality glasses currently on the market.
Games like Pokemon Go and virtual filters found within applications like Snapchat have used augmented reality to provide an enhanced user experience.
Yes. Toolkits such as ARKit allow Apple developers to create augmented reality experiences for their products.
At the same time, ARCore is Google’s answer to AR, providing developers with the tools they need to create AR applications for Android devices.
In addition, Microsoft’s Hololens is a mixed reality headset that has recently gained traction in the business world.
Augmented reality is a technology still in its infancy yet making great strides forward simultaneously.
From healthcare to social media and everything in between, It has already begun to impact several industries, some commonly used in everyday life.
As technology continues to develop, we can expect to see even more impressive and innovative uses for augmented reality in the future.
What do you think about augmented reality?
Do you think it has practical applications in everyday life?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Further reading on AdamEnfroy.com: Artificial intelligence plays a huge role in developing and powering augmented reality experiences.
This advancement in technology is not only changing how we interact with the world around us but also how businesses operate on a day-to-day basis.