Augmented Reality (AR) has often been touted as a forward-thinking technology. However, it has been around for some years now. Moreover, it has been evolving and becoming more sturdy and flawless with time.
AR refers to the blurred line between the real and virtual world due to the integration of the user’s environment and the digital interface (in real time). While Virtual Reality (VR) constructs computer generated interactive environments, AR deals with computer-generated images overlaying the user’s real view, thereby creating an amalgamated view of both the virtual and augmented worlds. This further presents the sentiments of being closer to the real world. In AR, virtual objects are placed in the real world and viewed through various encounters. This technology constitutes of graphics, smell, sounds and provides feedback to the real world (e.g. through cell phones and video games).
AR 3D viewers: Using trackers (images) to which 3D models can be attached, users can place these models in their environment to view the effect in real time. E.g. Augment.
AR browsers: A phone’s camera display when pointed towards a building, can display the building’s related information.
Gaming: Games can be literally experienced while the characters seem to be placed in the settings of the actual environment.
With the hype being created around Google’s Glass, other businesses have begun to take AR seriously and have been launching their own AR applications. Here is a list of the other organizations involved in implementing AR technologies:
Vuzix’s eyewear − The user can manipulate objects through virtual 3D while being able to position them in the real world. Also, through video streaming, content is displayed on a device connected to the eyewear, making it easy to access data (through the usage of Wifi and Bluetooth). Vuzix offers the AR3000 series of glasses which are 2.0mm thick where one can see through with waveguide optics technology. It runs on Android and comes with a touchpad, noise canceling microphones, and 2 HD cameras.
Innovega’s augmented contact lens − These iOptik lenses can display AR content, typically geared for use by the military. These comprise of tiny optical elements and a filter and go on to incorporate the user’s instructions.
IBM’s shopping assistant − Focusing on retail, through IBM’s Augmented Reality Shopping Assistant, an image of the product is taken (while the shopper moves the phone’s camera over a shelf of the product required) and using advanced image processing technologies, ranks the product on certain criteria, provides information on the location of other similar products inside the store, their prices, gives details of personalized coupons, offers product comparisons and nutritional informational of the products. This information is also extremely useful for the retailer to know the customers’ shopping choices and schedules.
TagWhat − This application provides the latest information on events, discounts and deals going on at neighboring businesses (in a given area). It also provides the areas of interest in close proximity based on time and location.
Layar − This technology links the print and digital world; if placed on AR-enabled print advertisements, it converts them to digital format proving the related information or video, e.g. online shopping cart. Also printed materials like flyers, cards and packages can be enhanced with links to photos, videos, social media, music etc.
Ikea Application (Catalog) − Similar to Layar, Ikea’s AR-enabled print content becomes live on a smartphone. For e.g. one can view a piece of furniture in 3D and perceive what it might look like in actuality.
Metaio AR chipset − This chipset, known as the AR Engine will work similar to that as GPU’s benefits for the gaming industry. It will not only improve the speed and performance, it will also improve the battery life of mobiles that use AR software. Metaio has partnered with St-Ericsson which will install the chip in the new mobile platforms while making the use of AR all-day possible.
Nokia’s CityLens − Again, a location-based application, it provides Nokia’s users the information of nearby restaurants and local businesses. This will be played through a video with added information. This application is complete with 3D icons and provides the user the ability to reject any suggestions that aren’t within sight. Users can go on to pin categories (to home screen) and lay up their favorite searches. Available in portrait and landscape, it is accessible only for Nokia’s phones with Windows 8 version.
Mitsubishi AR for instructions − The new application ‘MeView’ by Mitsubishi assists customers, contractors and sales representatives in installing or fixing heating systems or air-conditioners. The users do not have to go through the entire procedure in the rather lengthy instruction manuals. This application uses optical object recognition and AR technology where the iPad’s application (using the camera) when placed over the system to be fixed, will give step-by-step directions for the equivalent real world appliance.
NGrain 3D AR for training − Similar to MeView, NGrain uses its AR application to guide through the procedures/educate workers on industrial equipment, thereby aiding the learning of workers on the field rather than in a classroom. The equipment can be viewed in 2D and 3D forms (iOS), providing an interactive training experience.
Other AR applications in the market are Pokémon Go, Ink Hunter, WallaMe, Google Translate, Amikasa etc. AR has already transformed the play and impact of video games; and is further benefiting in sales, design, digital, retail, navigation etc. It is aiding in the visualization of objects which might not be actually present in the room but give an idea of how they will look/function if they were to be present physically. Other devices through which AR can be witnessed and experienced include smartphones and tablets through which one can see holograms, 3D models (including manipulation) etc.
AR not only superimposes information; it simply appends to the reality. It goes on to create a rather immersive experience for its users, making features much easier to understand, select and exercise.