With evolving technology, the data we obtain about our environment is richer than ever before. It also seems that we keep having less time and more choices. To keep up, we need something that would help us to comprehend information and make decisions faster.
One way to close the gap between the digital and the psychical world is augmented reality technology. AR is used across industries and helps, for example, shoppers to pick the right clothes, technicians to fix machines efficiently, allows medical students to try out surgeries digitally.
We can now view 3D images, manipulate virtual objects, and even create entire digital worlds that exist alongside our own..
Since the starting era of computer technology, people have dreamed of a future where it can enhance what they see and experience in the world around them. Augmented Reality (AR) is bringing that future a little closer by using digital technologies to overlay information onto the physical world.
You might find it like a science fiction movie, but AR is already being used in different ways that positively impact our lives. With its ability to bring your ideas to life, AR is proving to be a valuable tool for both individuals and businesses alike.
Let’s look at what exactly AR is, how it works, in what forms it exists, and how it can help people receive information.
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality, or AR, is a technology that allows digitally generated 3D objects to be overlaid in real-world scenarios using an AR device. The virtual object shows up on the screen in the real environment together with the device’s camera input. This way, the users can interact both with the physical world and the virtual object enriching the experience with data.
However futuristic it may sound, nowadays, it is pretty easy to encounter AR technology. While still developing, it is estimated that worldwide spending on AR technologies will reach $45.1 billion by 2022. The technology is being used across industries, including marketing, healthcare, education, product development, manufacturing, etc. The learn more about use cases in different fields, you can download our e-book by clicking the button below.
Use cases of augmented reality
Learn how AR transformed learning and decision-making processes across industries.
Brief history of AR
The world’s first head-mounted display was created by Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull in 1968. This device used primitive computer graphics to create an image of what lay beyond the user’s line of sight.
The video place was an artificial reality lab created in 1975 by Myron Krueger. The mission of this company (which later evolved into projecting human figures onto screens with digital content such as projectors and cameras) continues today as well.
In 1980, Steve Mann developed the first portable computer that could be used while you are looking into it. It was called “Eye Tap.” The technologies allowed him to record images and superimpose others on top for an interactive experience.
The first Heads-Up Display was developed in 1987 by Douglas George and Robert Morris. It displayed astronomical data over the real sky, which helped pilots avoid eye fatigue while flying at night or during foggy conditions.
Thomas Caudell and David Mizell, researchers for the Boeing company, came up with a term that would eventually be known as augmented reality in 1990.
With Frank Deigado and Mike Abernathy’s team of scientists, in 1999, they created new navigation software that could generate runways and street data from a helicopter video.
In 2000, the Japanese scientist Hirokazu Kato developed ARToolKit, an open-source SDK that works with Adobe programs like Photoshop and Illustrator to create 3D graphics on your computer screen.
In 2008, Wikitude, a company that specializes in artificial intelligence and virtual reality technology, created an app for Android mobile devices called AR Travel Guide.
With Google Glass, from 2013, gamers can wear augmented reality goggles that let them see their surroundings through HD screens.
The difference between AR, VR and MR
While augmented and virtual reality are often grouped together, they don’t work the same way and serve different purposes.
As mentioned before, augmented reality (AR) includes a virtual overlay in a real-life environment. The user still sees the physical world, only his view is enriched by AR animation and data. Almost any person with a smartphone can get access to AR, no additional devices are necessary.
Although augmented reality usually gets all the spotlight, there is another AR – assisted reality. Unlike augmented reality, it is a reality first experience. Information isn´t overlaid on top of the real world. Instead, the user sees a screen within their immediate field of vision.
On the other hand, virtual reality completely immerses the user into a virtual, computer-generated scenario. When a user puts on a VR headset, the screen eliminates any interaction with the real-life environment. However, it often does simulate a real experience by employing visual or auditory stimulation. To experience virtual reality, you need special equipment such as computers, headsets, or gloves.
Mixed reality combines the elements of AR and VR so that digital objects can interact with the real world. They are designed to be anchored to the real environment. Thanks to the interactivity element, MR overlaps with AR and is sometimes used interchangeably.
How does augmented reality work?
AR projections can be displayed on various devices: various screens, glasses, handheld devices, smartphones, and headsets.
For the computer-generated perceptual information to show up correctly, it calculates the position and orientation of the surrounding objects in real life. Usually, it works like this: Based on the type, AR can use depth sensors, accelerometers, cameras, gyroscopes, and light sensors to collect data on the user’s surroundings. They measure the distance to the objects, speed of the motion, direction and angle, and overall orientation in space. The data is then processed to show animation in a real-time and relevant location.
Types Of AR
There are four most popular types of augmented reality: marker-based, marker-less, projection-based and superimposition-based AR.
- Marker-based AR
Marker-based AR (also called “image recognition) requires a marker – a photo, QR code, or something similar – to initiate the AR animation.
The device will scan the marker with a camera and calculate the overlay’s position. The marker is static, allowing users to move around and inspect the object in 3D from various angles.
- Projection-based AR
As the name might suggest, projection-based AR visualizes digital images into physical space. It uses synthetic light to show visuals on surfaces.
It may be interactive – the most known would be a projected digital keyboard that allows users to type. However, it also can be non-interactive.
Those can look like a holograph – a light projection of objects where you can also see their position and depth.
- Marker-less AR
Marker-less augmented reality does not need a marker to be in a fixed point in space.
The placement of the virtual object is based on the user’s real physical environment.
Correct detecting and mapping surroundings require more advanced technology than marker-based AR, such as GPS or compasses. It is also known as “location-based” AR, as it adds information based on a certain area.
- Superimposition-based AR
Superimposition-based AR replaces a portion or the whole of a physical object in the view with an augmented one.
Object recognition plays a significant role in this, as the app must be able to recognize what object to show.
For example, this is used in medicine, where doctors can see the X-ray view of a patient’s broken bone on the real image or locate veins better.
Essential Components for AR to Work
Augmented Reality technology is growing more advanced every day, but there are a few essential components that it needs to work on to be effective.
AR relies on sensors to understand the environment around it. Using a combination of GPS, accelerometers, and gyroscopes, AR apps can figure out exactly where you are and what direction you’re facing.
From there, they can superimpose digital content on top of the real world. In any case, without sensors, AR wouldn’t be possible.
Algorithms are responsible for mapping the physical world and determining where digital content should be placed.
Designing algorithms that can accurately map the world is a challenge. The world is constantly changing, and so are the algorithms that power AR.
They provide the user with information about the virtual world created. The most common output device is a head-mounted display (HMD).
AR technology requires lightweight output devices that deliver high-resolution images and video without causing undue strain on the user’s neck or eyes.
What is SLAM Technology?
SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) refers to the technology that allows digital content to be accurately placed in the real world.
Using a combination of sensors and computer vision, SLAM tracks the user’s movements and produces a map of the surrounding environment.
This map is then used to place digital content, such as 3D models or virtual objects, in the real world.
Uses of AR
AR has various potential uses, from entertainment and gaming to education and training. AR is already being used by some industries, such as retail, healthcare, and manufacturing.
But how does AR facilitate these industries? Let’s take a look:
With technology integration like AR, the healthcare industry has revolutionized and has become more efficient and effective.
Surgeons use AR to provide real-time guidance to surgeons during complex procedures. It could also be used to create immersive educational experiences for medical students.
Additionally, AR could be used to create virtual models of patients’ organs, allowing doctors to get a better understanding of their anatomy.
Retailers always look for new ways to engage customers and create an interactive shopping experience. Augmented reality (AR) is one technology that is being used more frequently in the retail sector.
AR involves superimposing computer-generated images onto a user’s view of the real world.
For example, customers can view products in their homes before making a purchase, or get a virtual tour of a store before visiting in person.
Augmented reality (AR) is one of the latest technologies that is starting to make a big impact in the world of entertainment. AR can be used from enhancing live performances to create interactive experiences for users.
For instance, AR can be used to project images and information onto surfaces; providing viewers with an immersive experience. Additionally, AR can be used to create games and other interactive content.
Examples of AR technology
AR becoming commonplace might seem like a thing of the distant future. In reality, it is far more common than you might think.
- Snapchat & Instagram filters
Probably the most popular example of AR in everyday life are the filters used by social media apps.
These include everything from illustrated flower crowns or retro picture filters to “beautifying” filters.
The user´s face is detected with the help of AI. After that, the filter is digitally overlaid on the face. Thanks to AR and AI, these filters can look very real.
- Pokémon Go
Pokémon Go, the mobile game that took the world by storm in 2016 and grossed more than $6 billion in revenue by 2020, is a prime example of AR.
The game combines digital technology with physical involvement – the players catch cartoon characters virtually present in real-life surroundings.
- Maintenance assistance
AR equipped maintenance solutions that aid users can be very helpful while troubleshooting.
They are also a great help to beginner technicians with limited knowledge about the equipment they are servicing.
Apps like this are often used in the manufacturing, automotive or field service industry.
Assisted reality devices such as RealWear are equipped with an HD camera for visual documentation and a powerful microphone that workers can use even in noisy environments such as construction sites or manufacturing halls.
Workers can follow manuals, complete inspections, or make calls while keeping their hands free. Resco’s app for RealWear is offline enabled, can be adapted to the client’s needs, and directly integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Resco Cloud.
- Interior decoration apps
When you want to remodel your home, you don´t need to go and buy new furniture.
Instead, you can try it out in one of the many interior decoration apps that allow you to virtually impose a picture over your surroundings so that you can try out if the new piece of furniture would fit.
The furniture retailer IKEA has gone even further and created IKEA Studio – an app that uses the iPhone´s LiDAR sensor to capture 3D plans of your home so that you can virtually redesign it.
It is currently in beta, but it was built in preparation for the arrival of Apple Glass, so we know that we can expect an even more immersive AR experience in the future.
- ASOS See my fit
The online fashion retailer ASOS is always quick to innovate.
When the pandemic started and model as well as photographers could only work from home, ASOS launched the See My Fit feature in collaboration with the AR company Zeekit.
See My Fit allows users to digitally fit clothing onto models with sixteen different body types, sizes and heights.
Metaverse & AR
Metaverse and AR are two cutting-edge technologies often spoken about in the same breath.
And for a good reason – they both hold immense potential for transforming the way we interact with the world around us. But how are these two technologies connected? And do they have a place in the future?
Metaverse is a virtual world that exists online, while AR is a technology that overlays digital information in the real world. Both technologies have the power to change the way we work, play, and communicate.
Metaverse can be used to create virtual workplaces, where employees can collaborate from anywhere in the world.
AR, on the other hand, can revolutionize shopping by allowing people to try on products before they buy them.
According to statistics, the total market value is forecast to climb from $30.7 billion in 2021 to around $300 billion by 2024. Looking to the future, it’s clear that both Metaverse and AR will majorly impact our lives.
Future of AR
AR is still in development; there’s no doubt that AR has a bright future ahead. But what to expect from this technology in the years to come?
First and foremost, we can expect AR to become more common among people. As the technology develops, it will become increasingly affordable and easy to use.
You can also expect AR to significantly impact how you interact with the world around us.
With the advent of 5G, AR can provide much higher-resolution real-time information, making it more realistic and immersive.
In addition, 5G will enable AR applications to be used in more remote locations, such as construction sites and mines.
So, what does the future hold for AR? There’s no telling exactly what will happen, but one thing is for sure: it will be an exciting adventure.