From social media to medical applications, AR can be used in a number of ways to enhance and enrich our experiences.
Before we get started on how Augmented Reality works, what it’s used for and how it’s different from Virtual Reality, let’s begin with a definition:
Augmented Reality noun
A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.
In real terms, what this means is scanning a marker of some kind in the natural existing environment (an image, QR code, barcode, GPS co-ordinates, or similar) with your mobile device to activate digital virtual information – a computer-generated image that is superimposed on top of the actual object you’re looking at.
What is the purpose of AR?
The primary use of AR is to enhance our experience of something by creating a digitally-enhanced impression through graphic, sound and touch feedback.
How exactly does AR activate?
There are a number of ways that AR information can be triggered:
Marker Based AR uses a camera, usually on your mobile device, to scan a physical marker such as a QR code and activate the virtual information
Markerless AR uses a non-visible trigger to activate the virtual information – this trigger is normally a GPS coordinate, accelerometer, velocity meter or digital compass usually found in your mobile
Projection Based AR produces a virtual information effect by projecting artificial light onto a surface and then sensing human interaction with the light to produce a response.
Superimposed AR uses object recognition software to produce a partial or complete digital rendering of the objects in view, and overlays a range of new objects into this replica view
What is AR used for?
AR technologies are beginning to play an increasingly important role in a wide range of fields including medicine, retail, design and modeling, logistics, tourism, entertainment and education.
In the medical field, AR allows students to learn in an interactive and 3D environment, and also gives them the opportunity to perform virtual procedures as part of their training.
In the retail, entertainment, design and tourism space, AR gives an immersive experience to shoppers, tourists, designers and patrons – from giving colour customisation options to interactive maps and books, and detailed renderings of new buildings and projects to virtual walkabouts, AR gives a rich, detailed rendering to enhance the user’s experience.
In the education sector, AR brings unlimited value by giving learners highly-detailed experiences across a wide range of subjects – for example, a full and interactive 3D map of the solar system, or dive deep under the ocean’s surface without leaving the comfort of the classroom.
AR is still relatively new as a technology, and new applications are being discovered virtually daily.
How is AR different to Virtual Reality?
AR applies a virtual element to the natural environment, creating layers of interest superimposed on the actual world.
Virtual Reality is a totally immersive experience, in which a user puts on VR devices that shuts out the physical world completely and replaces it with a completely digital rendering that is fully interactive.