What is Augmented Reality?
Have you ever chased virtual Pokémon creatures on your phone across your neighbor’s bushes or through empty parking lots? Maybe you have used the IKEA app to see how that new couch or television would look in your living room? If you have done either of those or anything similar, congratulations. You have just experienced some very limited applications of augmented reality (AR), but what is augmented reality exactly?
It may just seem like a cool new way to play with your phone, however AR has a much bigger and more impactful purpose across various industries, such as health and travel.
Let’s see what AR is all about.
How Does it Work?
You can define the word augmented as something made greater or more complete. Essentially, AR is a unique experience of the real world where everyday objects are made greater, augmented with computer generated sounds, text, or images.
A simple way to explain it is through Snapchat filters. Whenever you use the Snapchat camera, it takes your image in real life and adds lenses with computer generated images to create the experience of a new AR.
AR is not exactly new. It has been around since the past century. However, the technological advancements of our time have made it possible to be developed further and it is used much more widely.
You can find AR on numerous devices such as phones, tablets, glasses, head-mounted displays and a few other handheld devices. Without getting too technical, AR uses your device’s cameras, sensors and processors to project or create an AR experience.
How is it Different From Virtual Reality?
Although often considered the same, AR and virtual reality (VR) are entirely different things. While both intend to provide an enhanced experience to the user, the difference lies in how immersive the experience is. As mentioned earlier, AR is all about taking your real life image and adding computer-generated information over it for a more enhanced and rich experience.
You are still in the real world and you feel yourself to be in the real world, there are just some additional texts or images that you can see over the real world as a means of entertainment or source of information. In VR, you get to immerse yourself in a whole computer-generated world completely.
You can look around or even move in real life and you will find yourself looking or walking in this virtual world. VR gained popularity in gaming, but over time the technology has spread to other areas for other uses. For example, surgeons use VR to practice their procedures in a risk-free environment. This technology uses VR headsets such as Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.
While we are here, we would also like to mention the third kind of this series known as Mixed Reality (MR). MR is still quite unknown, but it is out there. To put it in simple words, it combines elements of AR and VR, both for a similar special experience.
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Snapchat lenses and Pokémon GO are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to applications of this brilliant technology. You can use it in everyday situations such as a GPS, providing an enhanced route over a real-life map to make it easier for you.
You can also use this technology to solve bigger problems such as fighter pilots quickly visualizing their location and other information.
Accordingly, here are some more examples of how this technology can be helpful today.
- The Star Walk app by Vito Technology allows you to view stars and planets on your phone as you point the camera at different places in the sky.
- Historical Sites use AR to project past events over present ruins as a better way to show what happened.
- Construction companies use this technology to visualize their projects and any dangers long before any work starts.
- The military uses AR for better navigation systems and to help them mark locations in real-time.
- Some tourist apps allow you to see the attractions on your phone. This way, you can decide what you like and would want to see in person.
- Some people use glasses or headsets while repairing machines to help them work better and fix the problem quickly.
Pros of AR
One of the best things about AR is that it presents unlimited possibilities for how it can be used. Let’s look at some of its other pros.
Makes Use of Existing Devices
Unlike VR, which requires a headset, you can experience AR right from your phones or tablets.
Excellent Training Tool
As mentioned earlier, this technology has numerous uses. Similarly, it proves as an excellent training tool with enhanced real-world experience, without any risk of damaging objects.
You can Use AR Anywhere
You can use your phones to experience augmented reality from anywhere, such as your living room or office. It usually does not require you to go somewhere special.
Great Business Tool
This technology can help businesses in offering and marketing their products more effectively as customers can see how it looks before purchasing, thus getting rid of any fear.
Cons of AR
With a few more years and a bit more work, we will probably perfect the AR technology. However, until that happens, we must outline the following cons of AR.
Whether it is the tools, or the people needed to run it, AR can end up being quite expensive for individuals and businesses alike.
As with many of the smart devices around us, the AR devices also raise our concerns over data privacy. For instance, these devices use cameras that can, at times, record sensitive information.
We have yet to see the full potential of AR and its countless applications around us. More importantly, this brilliant technology will completely change the way we perceive and interact in the real world.
Therefore, if we want to be a part of this change and benefit from it, we better start learning everything there is to know about augmented reality. Fortunately, you have already gotten a brief idea about it here, so you know what to look forward to.