Augmented Reality: A Futuristic Leap

Augmented Reality (AR) as suggested in the title, is a futuristic leap. It has been an area for research in recent times. Augmented Reality is a combination of reality and virtual space and it is created by a mixture of both. It is the composite view for the end-user which is generated by computers.

What is Augmented Reality?

If we check the definition of Augmented Reality, it is the ability to superimpose digitally rendered images onto our real-world surroundings, giving a sense of an illusion or virtual reality. “AR differs from virtual reality (VR) where it requires the real-time markers or point of references for it to function”.

Augmented reality is used to enhance natural environments or real-world situations and offer enriched experiences. With the usage of advanced technologies, the information displayed to the surrounding and real-world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulated. Information about the environment and its objects are augmented in the real world. The information which is added can be both real and virtual.

How It Works

It allows the merging of virtual information with a real-time environment to provide users with more immersive interaction with their surroundings. Recent developments have made this technology accessible using Smartphones.

If we scrutinize the working of AR in a mobile application, the phone’s camera identifies and interprets a marker, often a black and white barcode image. The software analyses a marker and creates a virtual image overlay on the mobile phone’s screen, tied to the position of the camera.

It means that the app works with the camera to analyze the angles and distances the mobile phone is away from the point of reference.

A key feature of AR systems is how realistically they can integrate augmentations with the real world. The software must derive real-world coordinates, independent of the camera. It is called image registration and used different methods of computer vision. The whole process consists of two parts. In the first stage, the device detects the image or video and put certain points around edges. It detects corners, alignment of the scene. In the second part, the real-world coordinate system is added from the data obtained in the first stage.

Real-World Application

The technology is still at an early stage. However the potential of AR technologies is growing rapidly, and it can be applied in various fields such as in engineering, medical, entertainment. Let us look at its applications.

  • The gaming industry is one of the biggest beneficiaries of this technology. Several games were developed for both outdoor and indoor environments, such as Pokémon Go and Air Hockey.
  • AR has been instrumental in medical sciences where it has helped doctors to find the image and position of the veins in the skin. It has been reported that in many colleges medical students use AR technology to practice surgery in a controlled environment. There is multiple visual aids present to explain the complex medical conditions of the patients. Augment Reality also helps doctors to show patients and understand them about the different ailments. Augmented reality has reduced the risk of an operation by giving the surgeon improved sensory perception.
  • Snapchat users have access to augmented reality in the company’s instant messaging app through the use of camera filters. In September 2017, Snapchat updated its app to include a camera filter that allowed users to render an animated, cartoon versions of themselves.
  • Navigation is the most important feature of augmented reality in regards to everyday lives. Enhanced GPS systems use augmented reality to make it easier to get from point A to point B. With the help of the phone’s camera in combination with the GPS, users see the selected route over the live view of what is in front of the car.
  • AR is commonly used in weather broadcasting. In the news studios, they display full-motion video of images captured in real-time from multiple cameras and other imaging devices and superimposed on a screen to viewers.
  • AR has introduced in sports broadcasts as well. Sports and entertainment venues are provided with realistic augmentation through different trackers, camera feeds for enhanced viewing. For example, in cricket we see different commercial advertisements overlaid onto the view of the playing area as well as much game-related information displayed artificially.

Apart from them, there are multiple applications in improving retail experiences, military use, and many others.

Differences between VR and AR

In Virtual Reality, the user is transferred to a simulated and virtual world and completely immersed inside it. The field of vision is controlled by the use of different gadgets and the user gets to interact with a different world. However, in the AR it enhances our reality with the help of simulated inputs, meaning that it replaces or adds to the real world with a simulated one within your physical surroundings.

Limitations

However, despite its giant leaps in everyday lives, it has certain limitations in day to day lives. Due to AR games, there has been a significant rise in vehicular accidents and fatalities. There are concerns from government agencies that the concept of modern augmented reality depends on the ability of the device to record and analyze the environment in real-time. Due to this, there are potential legal concerns over privacy. These are the few hurdles AR has to overcome shortly.

Another limitation includes rendering digital data into meaningful graphics and scaling it to fit the perspective of the visual field. In mobile phones, augmented reality must work with limited processing power, a small amount of memory, and little storage. This feature hasn’t been achieved yet for commercial use.

Conclusion

In conclusion, augmented reality is a futuristic step towards the digital age. With the advancement of the Internet of Things (IoT), the blend of both technologies could impact our lives on a daily basis. AR has amazing applications that can very well allow us to live our lives more productively, more safely, and more informatively.

Featured image source: Freepik

Published by Amy Bergau

Amy is documenting her experience as a software engineer in Hong Kong. Amy blog is evidence that technology can be creative, cross-disciplinary, and fun. Amy is also a proactive digital marketer with HK and UK working experience in marketing, analytical research and customer service fields.

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