Augmented reality (or AR) is one of the popular digital trends that transformed the traditional way of things in many spheres of our life. Being capable of enhancing our surroundings, AR demonstrates incredible features that can educate, entertain, and assist with implementing complex procedures. This is unforgettable user experience.
In one of our previous posts we’ve already discussed AR and how it is applied in various industries. In this article we’ll explain Augmented reality concept and describe how it works. We’ll cover devices supporting AR features and the programming tools that help deliver AR solutions. Next, we’ll look at the practical use of AR technology. Finally, we’ll discuss the future spreading of AR.
What does Augmented reality stand for?
By Augmented reality we mean that the view of real environment is enriched with digital content – i.e. images, 3D models, video, light projection.
What types of AR can we meet today? The four types are usually distinguished:
- Marker based AR;
- Location (or GPS) based AR;
- Projection based AR;
- Superimposition based AR.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these types.
Marker based AR assumes that camera is used to recognize this or that pattern. Reading a QR code is the most widely spread example.
GPS based AR deals with data about a person’s position. With this technology, one can easily get interactive directions on how to get to the certain location, or see where the nearest stores and services are located.
With projection based AR the artificial light is sent onto the real objects. This light can be then touched by a user.
Superimposition AR means that the view of the real surrounding is replaced by its augmented view. Having this opportunity, one can easily picture how the desired new furniture will fit into the interior.
How does AR actually work?
To make transformation of our surrounding happen, computer generated content is put into the real environment. This work is performed by the hardware which is contained in gadgets supporting AR.
What components are utilized to produce digital content? These can be a camera, sensors, and a projector. Sensors and cameras acquire data about the surrounding, which is subject to further processing. A projector may be used to send graphics to the surface in front a user. In addition, CPU, GPU, accelerometer, GPS are often utilized to process the received info.
Once the surrounding is enriched with digital content, can a user interact with it somehow? Sure! You can control it by means of the device controllers, by moving the device itself, and even by applying voice commands (think “OK, Glass”). In addition, the producers of smart devices are currently working on gesture-based controls, which are going to provide users with a qualitatively new and exciting experience.
What devices can utilize AR possibilities?
Thanks to the latest advances in capabilities of popular gadgets (and their increased affordability), it has become possible for most of us to enjoy outstanding AR features.
First of all, these are handhelds – smartphones and tablets. In addition, wearables and headsets (Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, Epson Moverio Smart Glasses) are a great fit for AR. That is, you point the camera of your smartphone at the objects around you, and special tags, graphics and 3D images are added to the view on the screen. When you put on AR glasses, you see how your real surrounding gets integrated with computer generated content.
These gadgets are powerful enough to handle the incoming info about the environment – no need to connect them to separate devices to perform this work.
What’s on the developers’ side?
As to developers, what programming tools do they apply to bring outstanding AR solutions into life?
Together with iOS 11, Apple has recently presented ARKit framework, which allows building amazing solutions for iOS devices. When it comes to development for Android, ARCore is utilized (actually, this is Google’s analogue of ARKit).
What about app development for headsets? When building apps for Google Glass, Glass Development Kit is used. Development for Microsoft HoloLens, however, doesn’t require a separate SDK – the work can be performed in Visual Studio with Windows 10 SDK.
In addition, there are programming tools which can be applied when working with different platforms. Vuforia, EasyAR, ARToolKit, Wikitude, Kudan, Maxst, and XZIMG are among them.
What’s the practical use of AR?
Most of us would think of entertainment first when we hear about Augmented reality – indeed, this technology provides really exciting using experience. However, entertainment is just one of the variety of spheres where AR can open breathtaking opportunities. This can truly revolutionize the way many industries work.
Let’s look at some truly amazing examples of applying AR technology.
AR solutions providing assistance with surgical procedures deserve special attention. They help doctors get instant access to a patient’s records, to archive the procedure, to project graphics on any part of a patient’s body that would help during the procedure. The good news is that these actions can be performed without removing the gloves (by means of voice commands, for example), which saves valuable time.
AR can help disabled people significantly enrich their everyday life. For instance, there are apps that give them a chance to draw on the device screen with just their eyes movement thanks to the eye tracking feature.
There are useful solutions for automotive industry. AR technology provides great assistance with future cars design creation and crush tests results visualization.
Tourism is one more industry that applies the benefits of AR. During sightseeing, users can now point their handhelds at historic objects and see figures and facts about them on the screens of their devices.
The use of AR can be out of the ordinary. One of examples is app that allows writing messages and posting pics right onto the sky. Other users of this app may check what’s posted on the sky.
The future of AR
Augmented reality technology is constantly moving further. Everyday programmers all over the world are finding the new exciting ways to apply the great opportunities AR opens. Many of them willingly share their findings with the community. Check the AR Experiments section of the Experiments website to see the latest insights from the programmers, such as:
- The visualization of music with fireworks sparkling right in front of you;
- The robot car riding the road which is made on the smartphone screen and then put onto the real floor in a room.
Seeing the potential for further growth of AR in the long term, the top producers of smart devices (Apple, Google, Microsoft) keep on investing in it. More and more gadgets supporting AR are appearing in the market today. Facebook is known to be currently working on its own AR headset.
Chances are that new types of AR devices will appear. Who knows, maybe AR will be embedded into contact lenses in a couple of years?
Augmented reality is a very exciting topic which can be discussed endlessly. We’ve covered the basics of it and provided some bright examples of amazing opportunities it brings to certain spheres. It is impossible, however, to cover all of these benefits.
If you have additional examples of the dramatic changes brought to various spheres of our life by AR – feel free to share them in comments!
Should you have an exciting AR solution in mind, don’t hesitate to drop us an email at email@example.com. Together we’ll find a way to bring it to life.