An aspect of augmented reality that most people are familiar with is the use of technological devices and platforms such as headsets, mobile devices, and applications to experience a computer-generated reality.
Whether if it is for learning, training, or leisurely purposes, augmented reality is a computer-generated experience that allows users to interact with both fictional and reality-based visuals in a digital format.
How Does Augmented Reality Work?
Augmented reality is possible thanks to a collaboration of devices and operations that help to bridge the gap between what is “real” and what is fictional in the user’s experience.
Image and sensory capturing devices, computer tools that utilize data cultivators (RAM, Wi-Fi, hard drives, etc.), visual protrusions, and glass mirrors to both capture and project light for a better visual experience.
How to Use Augmented Reality?
Access to augmented reality happens, for most users, through a tablet or a mobile device. By holding the camera of a tablet or phone over certain areas, a user may see digital images being shown over or interacting with the environment that the user is located in.
For instance, if a person is playing an AR video game and their camera is pointing toward the ground, they may see a character from the game walking across the grass nearby. Or, if the camera is pointing toward the sky, a character with wings might be seen flying across the horizon.
History of Augmented Reality
1960’s era Augmented Reality:
Like the Internet, augmented reality had its start in the late 1960s. The first headset, made by Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull, was the bulky yet groundbreaking foundation for popular modern AR devices like the Oculus headset.
1970’s era Augmented Reality:
In the mid-1970s, a digital reality-based platform “Video place” was formed. Science researcher Myron Krueger created one of the earliest versions of digital images interacting with people in the “real world.”
1980’s era Augmented Reality:
Right at the beginning of the decade, Steve Mann created “Eye Tap”, the world’s earliest compact computer device. As stated in the name, this device is placed over the eye. It showed the information to the user about a specific area of their environment and the user could interact with the data through the motions of their head.
1990’s era Augmented Reality:
At the start of the decade, thanks to researchers Thomas Caudell and David Mizell, the phrase “augmented reality” was created. Two years later, Louis Rosenberg formed an AR platform called “Virtual Fixtures”.
Seven years later, a Frank Delgado and Mike Abernathy led science faction tried out a location program that displayed information about streets and runways from an aircraft.
2000’s era Augmented Reality:
At the start of the decade, “ARToolKit”, an accessible and Adobe compatible software development kit, was produced and made public by scientific researcher Hirokazu Kato. Four years later, Trimble Navigation introduced the world to an outside helmet attached AR operation. Four years later, “Wikitude” created a travel instructional guide about augmented reality that is compatible with Android smartphones.
Modern era Augmented Reality:
Techno giant Google creates their AR prototype device, “Google Glass”, in 2013. Two years later, rival techno giant Microsoft introduced AR holographic eyewear “HoloLens” and “Windows Holographic”.
A year later, “Pokémon Go” arrives on the scene and becomes, not only an extremely successful gaming app but a game-changer for the video game industry. First week sales generated $2 million for its developer Niantic.
4 Modes of Augmented Reality
Protrusion-based augmented reality:
Man-made light is put onto solid objects or surfaces and whatever image is being shown will, sometimes, interact with said objects or surfaces.
Visual recognition-based augmented reality:
You have probably seen this instruction before when interacting with a product or service: Use your phone to take a picture of the QR bar code to access the content. That code acts as a marker so that users can digitally interact with the content.
Overlapping visual-based augmented reality:
Takes the place of what is actually in front of the camera and shows on a device screen what objects would look like if they were actually placed there.
Nonvisual recognition-based augmented reality:
This type of AR mode relies more on the user’s location than a marker or a code. Users can receive information about directions, local events, and businesses that are nearby.
Augmented Reality Devices
- Portable tablets and mobile phones
- Augmented reality eyewear
- Digital inner eye viewings
- Augmented reality eye lenses
- Designated AR tools
Augmented Reality (AR) Applications and Examples
Augmented reality tools that show details about a location such as landing/take-off spots, other airports that are close by, the proximity of other aircraft in the sky, and even the weather help assist pilots when flying from destination to destination. AR company Aero Glass specializes in the utilization of these tools through the use of headsets.
These AR tools of location management can also be used by drivers where the display is located on the front windshield so that drivers can keep their eyes on the road ahead. Navion by WayRay is a good example of this kind of application.
Popular stores like IKEA and Sephora has mobile AR apps that help users see how their products would look inside of their homes (IKEA Place) and on their face (Sephora’s Virtual Artist). The use of these store tools is possible thanks to overlapping visual-based augmented reality technology.
With AR protrusion-based technology, learning can actually be more fun. Imagine interacting with the information that you are reading about by seeing how different types of rock are formed, seeing graphs, charts, and tables come to life and even learning how to count and the alphabet through holographic flashcards. If you are a visual learner, the school will become a lot less boring.
What if you could view a seat and where it will be located before buying a ticket to a sporting event? What if you could see the record, stats, and batting average of a player with just the point of your mobile phone camera? With the utilization of AR apps like StubHub’s “virtual view” and Major League Baseball’s “At Bat”, you can do just that.
Advertising and Marketing
By being able to “try-out” a product or service using overlapping visual-based AR without having to physically be in contact with said product or service, can make the lead-to-customer process move quickly and create more buyers.
This tool can also be used to reach out to potential customers through protrusion-based images in public spaces like what Pepsi did in a bus station in London in 2014.
Wellness and Health
Augmented reality has not only been helpful in the service industry but has been revolutionary for the healthcare industry.
AR has been vital in assisting doctors and medical students in performing and learning about surgeries, assisting nurses in administering IV tubes and medications, enhancing sight for the visually impaired, and help alleviate the pain that amputees suffer from by using protrusions.
6 Examples of the Best Augmented Reality Apps
- Pokémon Go
- Google Maps AR Live View
- IKEA Place App
Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality
The phrases augmented and virtual reality sound very similar. While both phrases utilize digital components in the visuals that they showcase, virtual reality is 100% make-believe. I mentioned earlier that the creation of AR technology was the foundation for devices like the Oculus headset.
But the Oculus is a virtual reality device because the environments that it displays is completely virtual. Think of it as an advanced version of the Nintendo gaming console “Wii.” When wearing this headset, you are completely inside the digital world of whatever game that you are playing at that moment. You will not see your local public park inside of a VR version of Super Mario Bros.
With augmented reality, you will have digital components interacting with real-life environments. Like with the AR game Pokémon Go, if a person is sitting outdoors near a body of water, they might see a water Pokémon like Squirtle swimming around using its water gun powers. AR relies on the real-life environment that the user is in while VR is like being in a completely different world altogether.
The Future of Augmented Reality Technology
While tablets and phones are the main modes of the use of augmented reality, experts predict that this technology will become an even bigger component of our lives through eye lenses, eyewear, and other more “portable” devices.
With tablets and mobile phones, although AR has a lot of real-life components, users automatically know that they can only see what they see due to using the camera feature on their device. But, if eyewear devices become more mainstream, then the digital and the real world will become more blurred.
It is ironic that the technology that will be made to help users better see the world around them might be, at the same time, blurring the lines between the “digital” and the “real world.”
As we go from mobile phones and tablets to eye lenses and glasses, the thought of how it will change our perceptions of “what is real” and “what is not” comes to mind.
Kierra Benson is an alumnus of the University of North Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Technology. She previously completed an internship at a local newspaper and worked as a content creator for a small online business. Her goal is to work in the media industry in writing/editing and advertising. She has always been fascinated by how messages are marketed in the media to influence the masses and sell products. Connect with her on LinkedIn.