Augmented reality is another proof which attests my love towards Hollywood movies. I am a real Hollywood movie buff as it takes me into ultimate technology fantasies. And guess what, over the year, a director’s imagination has been converting into reality.
Augmented reality (also known as AR) is one of those fantasies which featured in various movies in the time when a smartphone hardly existed.
Technology has been changing our lives for good as ever, and Augmented reality is the latest addition to our day to day lives. Be it healthcare, navigation, games, mobile technology, etc., AR is changing the way gadgets have been working in the past or current times.
A lot of developments are happening around and, till date, results have been phenomenal.
But for most of us, the fundamental question still exists – What is Augmented Reality or AR? What are its application other than Pokémon Go? I bet, you might have experienced this game without even knowing that this is AR.
Why not go deeper into this subject and understand the in and out of AR.
What is Augmented Reality – Definition
You must have gone into 3D or 4D roller coaster rides. These fun rides are amazing as they take you on a virtual trip without you even moving an inch from your place. The whole experience revolves around virtual reality where you hardly interact with the real world. Everything is virtual!
The word “Augmented” itself means to improvise, to add or to enlarge. In short, there is a strong connection to virtual reality with the real world around us. AR exists somewhere in between virtual reality and actual world.
We can define AR (Augmented Reality) as an improvised version of the live view of a real world, which has superimposed computer generated virtual elements such as images, video, voice, etc. to enhance your perception of reality.
Huh! It is one tough definition to understand. Do not worry; we will deal with this ahead in this article.
Lets explain it further
As I told you before, AR is the addition of more data, in the form of virtual elements, on top of what you see live. It is overlaying sound, graphics, and touch virtually in the real world, which, in a way, intensifies your real-world perception.
In short, you are painting the real world around you with the help of digital brush and color as information.
A quick example could be the addition of text or graphics on a live interface as we see in the Pokémon Go game. Here, you hunt for Pokémon around you through the game interface on a smartphone. Pokémon Go game introduced the basic concept of AR in a very short span of time.
But in reality, the application of AR is more groundbreaking than you could ever imagine.
History of AR
Well, to start with, AR is nothing new. Prof. Ivan Sutherland, also known as the father of computer graphics, discovered the first AR in the year 1968. He invented first of its kind head mounted display kit which showed the possibility of AR. At that time, it was known as The Sword of Damocles.
Later, in the year 1990, Prof. Tom Caudell formulated the term AR and developed complex software system at Boeing to help technicians in assembling cables. Until 1999, AR remained an erudite, expensive and bulky hardware and software technology, mostly in the hands of a few eminent scientists.
Later, in the year 1999, Hirokazu Kato of Nara Institute of Science developed ARToolKit. In 2001 ARToolWorks was incorporated and subsequently HIT Lab released the open-source version of ARToolKit.
ARToolKit – It is an open source computer tracking library which can create robust augmented reality applications. Currently, it’s open source version is hosted on GitHub.
But with the arrival of smartphone, tablets, etc. AR came within reach of masses.
Types of AR
There are countless applications of AR. You name it, and you will find one or the other application of Augmented Reality. Most popular fields where AR has shown promising results are healthcare, business, communication, entertainment, shopping, etc.
Most of you might have started thinking AR around smartphone or tablets, but in reality, AR has made its way to other technologies too. Let’s see some of the types of AR.
Projection based AR
As the name suggests, this type of AR uses artificial light to project an image in the space or on any surface. I mean you can even throw your smartphone keypad image on your palm and interact with it. Isn’t it amazing!
If you know Pranav Mistry, who is currently vice president of Samsung research division, showed projection-based AR in the year 2009 at Ted Talk. Watch the video below if you want to see more about projection-based AR.
Another typical example is laser plasma shows where a 3D image can be projected easily in the space.
By the way, most of us must have seen the Iron Man movie, and it must have been a real treat to watch Iron Man working in his lab by projecting things into the air.
Recognition based AR
Recognition based AR is all about recognizing objects with the help of some code or pattern. The most typical example could be a QR or barcode scanner on your smartphone. You can now know things just by scanning through your smartphone QR code reader.
Similarly, recognition based AR could tell your flight status just by scanning code. Another example is the translation of different languages on the go only by focusing your camera on written paragraphs. Google translate is a beautiful app which makes this possible, and it is within your reach.
Another example is the recognition of objects and the possibility of creating a 3D simulation model instantly. 3D simulation modeling is an excellent application for people in design as such architects, product modeling, etc.
Position or location-based AR
Google map is the most standard application when it comes to GPS based navigation. Nowadays, we use map vigorously before we even embark on any journey. But except for the real traffic conditions, a map is almost non-interactive. There are hardly any interactions with the real world.
Imagine a scenario where you land in China and starts looking for a coffee shop on the street. The map shows you many coffee shops on that street, but then you have to struggle to navigate. But position or location-based AR makes it a piece of cake.
Image Source: Windows Blog
Above image is taken by Nokia City Lens, which uses a digital compass, GPS, accelerometer embedded in the mobile device to provide data based on your location.
This type of AR is also known as markerless, and it is commonly used for finding nearby addresses, directions, etc.
Outlining Augmented Reality
Outlining AR uses a camera to outline things which otherwise could have been difficult to visualize with naked eyes. The most popular application of this type of AR is a car navigation system. There are many companies which are now coming up with this kind of AR.
There is a company in Seoul which developed advanced driving assistance system (ADAS). This system can provide realistic road images and route information. It also has the inbuilt functionality of lane change warnings. It also outlines the road for proper identifications of lanes on road and edges.
Another use of outlining AR is in the field of architectural engineering where an engineer can study any building or structure concerning supporting pillars and structure outline.
Superimposition based AR
Superposition based AR provides an entirely different view of a real object by replacing the whole object or by augmenting the real object with another object. The most common example is the current shopping experience on many websites. For example, you can try out different eyeglasses on Lenskart and see yourself in a 180-degree view.
Similarly, you can try out various dresses without even going into any changing room. This is changing the face of future shopping where you may not have to shed hours shopping with your girlfriend or wife.
The most revolutionary use of superimposition based AR is in the medical field where a doctor can superimpose bone X-ray on the real person and could locate the actual problem.
What is the technology behind Augmented Reality – How does it work?
Till now, we have made a significant effort to understand AR and its applications. We have understood that AR is all about bringing digital objects in the real world, which a particular user can only see.
AR can be displayed on handheld devices, screens, monitors, and even glasses. Google Glass and Head-Up display AR onto your face with the help of a glass. On the other hand, a typical example of a handheld device is a smartphone.
The whole AR technology works around five fundamental principles, which are sensing, capture, projection, processing, and reflection.
Camera and Sensors
Camera and sensors are the primary building block of an AR device. They scan and collect the information from your surroundings and frames a digital model.
Information of objects could include type, location, pictures, videos, etc. The complete information helps in augmentation.
We have covered this aspect while dealing with projection-based AR type. Here, a small projector is used to project an object in the real world on any surface. The surface could be our palmtop, floor, wall, etc.
Above picture depicts the projection concept in the best possible way.
Most of the Augmented reality devices are independent devices. They can function independently without any use of a laptop or additional hardware. It means that these small AR devices encompass CPU, Memory, Bluetooth, RAM, accelerometer, and what not.
AR devices use mirrors in various possible combinations to reflect the virtual image on to your eyes. Some AR devices have a double-sided mirror where one mirror is used to reflect incoming light to a side-mounted camera and the second mirror is used to reflect light from a side-mounted display to the user’s eye.
Google Glass uses prism instead of glasses, as shown in the above picture. Whereas, Microsoft HoloLens uses to see through holographic lenses that use an optical projection system to beam holograms into your eyes.
How to control Augmented Reality devices
AR devices are controlled either with voice commands or with touch. Google Glass is an AR device which is controlled by merely speaking “OK Glass.” You can make variations with “OK Glass” to command Google Glass.
For instance, “OK, Glass, search nearby coffee shop” will send a command to the microprocessor to look for a coffee shop at your current location on Google map.
The touch interface resides on the AR devices itself. You can start an AR device by just pressing a particular spot on the AR device.
AR is a fascinating and groundbreaking technology which is for sure going to change the future of technology. Time will come when we will get rid of most of the hardware that we use for watching TV, making calls, using laptops, etc.
AR devices are bound to make our life easier. That’s why biggest companies like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. have invested billions of dollars in the development of augmented reality.
We typically do not realize but AR devices and their functionalities have already made their ways in our lives. Next time when you watch a cricket match, pay attention when the 3rd umpire makes use of ball-tracking to check the leg before wicket decision.
When I saw this the first time, I was baffled, but I chose to ignore it. But now I know that it was a small demonstration of what an augmented device can do.
This space has proved to be less for me to discuss AR groundbreaking applications in the healthcare sector. But do not worry, keep watching this space as I will be coming up with another article on AR applications in different areas.
Let me know your views about AR technology in the comment section below and do not forget to share this article with your friends and family on social media platforms.