Augmented Reality

So what is Augmented reality? Is it the same as 3D technology or Holograms?

Although in many aspects, they may seem similar, they are vastly different. Below we explain exactly what Augmented reality is.

Augmented Reality Introduction

Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment whose elements are “augmented” by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory, and olfactory. The overlaid sensory information can be constructive (i.e. additive to the natural environment) or destructive (i.e. masking of the natural environment) and is seamlessly interwoven with the physical world such that it is perceived as an immersive aspect of the real environment. In this way, AR alters one’s on-going perception of a real world environment, whereas virtual reality completely replaces the user’s real world environment with a simulated one. AR is related to two largely synonymous terms: mixed reality and computer-mediated reality.

Augmented Reality History

The first functional AR systems that provided immersive mixed reality experiences for users were invented in the early 1990s, starting with the Virtual Fixtures system developed at the U.S. Air Force’s Armstrong Laboratory in 1992. The first commercial AR experiences were used largely in the entertainment and gaming businesses, but now other industries are also getting interested about AR’s possibilities for example in knowledge sharing, educating, managing the information flood and organizing distant meetings. AR is also transforming the world of education, where content may be accessed by scanning or viewing an image with a mobile device. Another example is an AR helmet for construction workers which display information about the construction sites.

Augmented Reality Usage

The primary value of AR is that it brings components of the digital world into a person’s perception of the real world, and does so not as a simple display of data, but through the integration of immersive sensations that are perceived as natural parts of an environment. AR is used to enhance natural environments or situations and offer perceptually enriched experiences. With the help of advanced AR technologies (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Information about the environment and its objects is overlaid on the real world. This information can be virtual or real, e.g. seeing other real sensed or measured information such as electromagnetic radio waves overlaid in exact alignment with where they actually are in space.

Tacit knowledge gathering and sharing has also taken a huge step forward with the help of AR. Augmentation techniques are typically performed in real time and in semantic context with environmental elements. Immersive perceptual information is sometimes combined with supplemental information like scores over a live video feed of a sporting event. This combines the benefits of both AR technology and heads up display technology (HUD).

Augmented Reality Hardware

Display

Augmented reality can be displayed in several ways. The common ones include optical projection systems, monitors, handheld devices, and display systems worn on the human body.

Eyeglasses

These glasses or headsets are also known as wearable which can be used to create images or even holograms with a large degree of accuracy.

HUD

A heads-up display (HUD) is a computer-augmented display that presents information, data or other forms of visual elements to a user. HUD’s purpose is to allow visual data viewing on transparent screens without the need for the user to shift his viewpoint.

Contact Lenses

Contact Lenses can be used to directly portray AR to users. At least that is goal. This technology is widely believed to be possible and is widely explored by many leading companies in the industry such as Google and Apple. However, contact lenses that provide AR directly is still not available in the market as of now. Features of such contact lenses include capturing of images through a pre-installed camera embedded within it. Furthermore, with the constant kinetic energy built through blinking, it is an option many believe is possible one day. However, there are many limitations though with regards to the contact lenses due to its delicacy and sensitivity level of the user’s eye.

Virtual Retinal Display

The Virtual Retinal Display (VRD) is a new technology for creating visual images. The VRD creates images by scanning low power laser light directly onto the retina. This special method results in images that are bright, high contrast and high resolution. VRD functions are especially growing in the medical industry, with its large potential medical applications of the VRD, including surgical displays and displays for people with low vision.

EyeTap

EyeTap is a device that can be worn in front of the eye to act as a camera. Features include being able to record or display images. EyeTap has been popular for many years, and have recently been incorporated with AR technology.

Handheld

As the term depicts, handheld devices are devices that can be held in your hand. With advancements in smartphones, their operating systems and software, it is unsurprising that many such interactive displays such as AR have been integrated with it. It is widely expected that the number of AR related handheld devices will increase significantly over the next generation. Popular games on Smartphones such as Pokemon Go game app has been a revelation, capturing attention of worldwide audiences and recently released AR mode for even greater user experience.

Spatial

Spartial augmented reality (SAR) augments real world objects and scenes without using any particular special displays. Examples include shader lamps, mobile projectors, virtual tables, and smart projectors. Shader lamps mimic and augment reality by projecting imagery onto neutral objects, providing the opportunity to enhance the object’s appearance with materials of a simple unit – a projector, camera, and sensor.

Tracking

Modern mobile augmented-reality systems make use of tracking technology and sensors. Such technologies include digital cameras, optical sensors, accelerometers, GPS, gyroscopes, solid state compasses and RFID. These technologies offer varying levels of accuracy and precision catered for different functions and needs.

Network

Mobile augmented reality applications are gaining popularity due to the wide adoption of mobile and especially wearable devices. However, they often rely on computationally intensive computer vision algorithms with extreme latency requirements. Due to the large amount of computing power required, offloading data processing to another machine is often used. This method however, brings about additional constraints and problems such as bandwidth. Therefore, a strong network infrastructure is required to sustain the system.

Input devices

Input devices can be used for speech recognition that will translate a user’s spoke words into pre-set computer instructions. Furthermore, the system is capable of interpreting a user’s body movements through visual sensors or detection embedded in a pheripical device such as  wand, stylus, pointer, glove or other body wear.

Computer

The computer analyses the sensed visual and other data to synthesize and position augmentations. Computers are responsible for the graphics that go with augmented reality. Computers are the core aspect of augmented reality.

Augmented Reality Software

Unity Integration

Unity integration is the process of drag-and-drop functionality and scripting using C# to produce Unity, a multipurpose game engine that supports AR graphics. Other programming languages that support Unity include Boo and JavaScript.

Ionic integration

Ionic integration is the complete open-source SDK for hybrid mobile applications development. Programming languages that support it include CSS, HTML5 and Sass. Typically, Unity is used for games and ionic is used for mobile apps. However, it is possible to integrate both together.

Augmented Reality Development

Environmental & Context Design

It can be used in many different ways and for different groups of people. Users can use their entire body to interact with the software (Public). Users may also be able to interact with it through the usage of their smartphone in a public place (Personal). Users can also use their desktop, hence not much movement is required (Intimate). It can also be used via Wearable (Private).

Interaction Design

The significance of AR is that it can ensure the target message is delivered in a coherent and interesting manner. Due to the sophistication of AR, there may be vastly different reactions and interpretations from audiences, hence, causing confusion and alienation. Interaction technology centres on the user’s engagement with the end product to improve the overall user experience and enjoyment.

Visual Design

Visual design is vital in AR. The purpose of AR is to provide a realistic and interesting portrayal of the message or content. Visually, it has to captivate audiences and leave a lasting impression. Understanding your users are another important aspect, nothing is worse than creating AR that emphasizes the boring or confusing aspects of the content.

Augmented Reality Vendors

AR covers an extensive range of visual and audio types. For specifics, example 3D or hologram, do check out our other categories for more details.