Augmented Reality (AR) is the application of technology to superimpose information on digitally rendered images into real world environments to give a sense of virtual reality or create an illusion. For example, images and sounds are superimposed over what users see and hear.
Unlike Virtual Reality where computer generated environments are used to interact with human beings and human beings get immersed into them, AR takes the real world of the present and projects digital imagery and sound into it.
The presentation of augmented reality is in some form of futuristic technology, despite the fact that it has been around for many years. For example, the heads-up display in many fighter jets utilizes the principles of augmented reality, and these date back to the early 1990s when they were used to show information about altitude, speed and direction of the aircraft.
How does Augmented Reality work
The kind of augmented reality you are likely to experience these days utilizes a range of sensors such as cameras and computer components as well as display devices in creating the illusion of virtual objects in the real world. Some of the smartphones in the market today have all the necessary components needed in the creation of augmented reality hence they are commonly used for most of AR experiences. The basic working of augmented reality is as follows-:
In general, the device will search for a particular object, which can be anything, but in most cases, they are usually 2D images like in the form of a movie poster. The augmented reality application will recognize the target through the camera and it will then process the image and augment it in some form through the utilization of sound and pictures. For example, if the target object was a movie poster, you may see it spring into life to play a trailer of the movie. So long as you continue viewing the poster through the “window” of the display object, you will see augmented reality rather than the plain old normal poster in normal reality.
The future of Augmented Reality
The future of augmented reality has never been brighter as it is at the moment. Though mobile devices are the primary avenues for VR at the moment, this is not expected to remain the case since a lot of developments, enhancements and innovations are currently taking place in the industry. For instance, work is currently on in the development of augmented reality ear buds which will allow users to adjust sounds coming from the environment.
There is also ongoing research on AR for contact lenses and other wearable devices. The chief aim of augmented reality is to avail natural and convenient immersions and this practically means that the current mobile devices used for AR will be replaced, though it is still not known what exactly will replace them.
Like with every new technology, augmented reality comes with a plethora or ethical and political issues. For example, the Google Glass came along with a lot of privacy concerns, with some people worried that pictures may be snapped or conversations may be recorded surreptitiously. But amidst all these concerns, AR technology is expected to gather more steam in the near future and it will be a part of life for the majority.
Applications of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is used widely across different industries for various applications, with education and gaming taking the lion’s share of the uses. Discussed below are some of the applications of augmented reality:
Playstation and Xbox are the main video game consoles where augmented reality capabilities have been included in their latest releases in the form of Kinetic and Playstation Eye for Xbox and Playstation respectively. Since gamers face both camera and the screen during the game play, players can see themselves in the game, where they have the ability to interact with the game characters just as if they were in the same room.
In addition to Playstation and Xbox implementation of augmented reality in their consoles, there are also mobile augmented reality games and these are available on tablets, smartphones and handheld consoles like Playstation Vita and the Nintendo 3DS.
The potential of augmented reality in education is immense. Currently, the technology is widely applied in fields such as medicine in the simulation of 3D models used for teaching students. It is also possible to use existing learning materials like pages of a textbook in augmented reality. For instance, by targeting the picture of an engine in an engineering textbook, augmented reality can be used to animate the picture of the engine or even a working 3D model of the heart for better comprehension by the learners.
In medicine, augmented reality is used to project information on the patient’s body. For instance, the Veinviewer system is currently being used to project images of vein scans directly on the human skin to make it easier for the medics to locate where the various veins are. With this kind of application, the skin appears to be “transparent” and the clinicians can easily see the veins directly.
Augmented reality is expected to change the shape of commerce, equipping shoppers with the ability to browse the entire catalogs of favorite brands or stores in a more interactive manner. Through the technology, parks and airports could be turned into shopping destinations which will not just be an awesome way to kill time, but also an inventive way for businesses to save a lot of money in commercial real estate.
Augmented Reality in Travel
For travel, augmented reality can be used to provide budget “travel” options or quick “getaway” to places and sites you have always longed to visit. For instance, you can easily pop up the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Eiffel Tower right in your backyard and explore all the monuments in a virtual vacation.
The same could be used at home in the classrooms for teaching history, where students can take “class trips” to historical sites such as the Great Wall of China, thus making learning more personal, enjoyable and memorable.
Safety and Rescue Operations
In times of emergencies, first responders such as the police and firefighters usually arrive at chaotic scenes and these sometimes hamper their rescue operations. With augmented reality, the responders could have x-ray visions or virtual maps to give them a better idea of what to expect on the ground so that the SAR operations can be more effective.
Benjamin Arango is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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