Humans have come a long way from the stone age to the modern digital era. And throughout this journey, it has always been our inventions and discoveries that radically changed us, as well as this world we live in. Early humans lived in caves with bonfires, and now we live in houses with gas and electricity. Augmented reality can change our perception of reality.
Our ancestors used horses to travel, but the invention of cars and planes made transportation faster and better.
Eventually, it was the invention of computers and the internet that brought forth such a massive change that it completely transformed our lives, and also made it easier for us to explore and develop new technologies.
Today, every aspect of our lives is dependent on gadgets, tech, and devices in one way or another. Among all the wonderful technologies that exist or are being developed, let’s take a look at one particular technology that can completely change the way we perceive our surroundings – the Augmented Reality.
What Is Augmented Reality?
To understand AR, we first break down the two terms “Augmented” and “Reality”. Augment means to enhance or improve, and I’m sure I don’t need to explain what reality means. So Augmented Reality simply means an enhanced version of reality. Augmented reality can change our perception of reality.
Now let’s get a bit more technical. Augmented reality is a technology that provides users with an interactive experience of their surroundings. It does so by overlaying some form of digital information on top of the real-world view and presenting it to users through the
First, AR technology scans the real-world surroundings around a user and presents it in a digital medium, for example, the display screen of a phone or tablet.
It then lets the users interact with this digital version of their environment, by allowing the addition of sound, images, graphics or tactile feedback. This can be done in multiple ways to get different effects.
There are mobile applications that add computer-generated effects over the real world view, using the mobile screen.
Tech giants like Microsoft and Google have also developed AR glasses that allow the wearers to apply added effects and functions while viewing through the glasses.
All in all, the application and setup of AR technology is quite diverse, which we will discuss further.
For now, we move on to the next question –
How Does Augmented Reality Work?
So now that we have a basic idea of what AR is, we move on to a step by step analysis of how this technology works. There is three main hardware that is involved in the functioning of Augmented Reality, which is explained below.
INPUT DEVICE (CAMERAS/SENSORS)
The first step in AR tech is to scan the real surroundings around a user. There are different input devices that can be used for this, but the most common ones are cameras and sensors.
Cameras work similar to the human eye, as they scan the environment around us and convert it into a digital image or video. Sensors add more information such as location, movement, time, speed, etc. AR technology makes use of such input devices to gain necessary information about the user’s surroundings.
PROCESSORS AND INTERFACE
Like in the computer, processors act as the brain of an AR device. They receive real-world information from the input devices and then add the virtual information on top of it to achieve the desired effect.
Processors are also connected with some type of interface, that lets users choose what digital effects they wish to overlay on top of the real world. Once the real environment and digital interactions have been blended together, the entire data will then be transferred to an output device.
OUTPUT DEVICE (DISPLAY SCREENS)
in the final step, the processors will send the augmented information to an output device which will display the information to users, thus completing the AR experience.
Most AR devices use different types of display screens as an output device, but developers are also exploring the possibility of projectors and holographs as output to create an even more immersive experience.
MECHANISM OF THIS HARDWARE
To clarify the mechanism of this hardware, we will take an example of the mobile game Pokémon Go. This game gained immense popularity upon release as it commercially introduced AR technology to people all over the world. I’m sure most of you are familiar with its gameplay, but I’ll still explain it briefly for the few who are not aware of it.
To play this game, one has to use their smartphone camera to get a direct live feed of their surroundings on their phone’s screen. The game will then add virtual creatures (Pokémons) above the real world view to let players capture them or interact with them. When players look at their phone screen, they will see the Pokémon roaming around their house or backyard.
Smartphones Are The Best AR Example, How?
Here, the camera and sensors in the phone act as input devices which collect information about the real environment around players. The processor of the phone will then create the digital effects of these creatures running around in the vicinity. The phone’s screen will act as the interface, allowing users to perform different actions on the touchscreen.
The output device is also the phone’s screen, displaying the real world as well as the virtual effects together. Finally, the end result is that people get to play a game where they have to wander around their neighborhood searching for Pokémon through their phones.
This is just one example out of the many applications of Augmented Reality, but it does explain the basic working principles of the AR technology.
Present Applications of AR
This amazing technology has not yet reached its maximum potential yet, and more practical applications for Augmented Reality are still being studied and developed. Still, there are a lot of areas where AR technology is currently being used. Let’s take a look at some sectors where AR IS ALREADY BEING APPLIED.
SMARTPHONE APPS AND GAMING
A lot of Augmented Reality apps and games have already hit the app stores and are used by millions of users all over the world. Gatwick Airport Passenger app helps users to navigate through airports by displaying directions and guidelines along with the visual feed on the user’s phone screen.
Another app called Wikitude provides information about an object, structure or landmark when viewed through the phone’s camera. Even the Snapchat filters that are oh-so-popular nowadays are based on AR technology. Games like Pokémon Go and dARk: Subject One turn one’s real surroundings into a digital playground.
Some medical schools are using AR technology to train students and even doctors. This technology allows them to turn their surroundings into a training platform while practicing on digitally created images of patients and subjects.
As in the case of the
There aren’t many AR glasses commercially available in the market, as many are still under development. But some models like the Vuzix AR glasses by Google have already hit the market.
AR glasses can provide all functionalities of a smartphone without having to hold a phone in one’s hand. The only catch is that there aren’t many brands that are commercially available and those that are cost quite a lot.
For now, it seems that only smartphone apps are providing the best AR experience to the general public, and other applications are yet to be fully developed. But the future of AR has some amazing features in the
- AR glasses that allow doctors to get a better view of a patient’s body during surgery, or instantly access a patient’s medical records and other information during consultations.
- AR technology that can be used in the
educationsector to allow students to interact with virtual objects in real settings, or completely transform their surroundings into a simulated environment.
- Wearable AR devices that people can use in everyday life to make daily tasks easier, for example, glasses that let wearers take pictures with hand gestures.
- Holographic or projectable AR devices that can project virtual images without depending on a screen, or turn your wrist or the table surface into an interactive touch screen.
And even these are just a few areas where research is being conducted at the moment. The true potential of AR technology is really vast and almost limitless. Perhaps the only factor that can limit the application of Augmented Reality is our own imagination. Within the next few years, or a decade at most, AR technology will definitely change the way we perceive and interact with the world that surrounds us.
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