Augmented reality is a technology that expands our physical world by adding several layers of digital information onto it.
What is augmented reality, and how can it be used?
How will Augmented Reality affect a variety of different fields in the future and how likely is Augmented Reality to be used in the future?
Defintion of Augmented Reality:
Augmented reality is “a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.” (Google Dictionary).
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is a technology that expands our physical world by adding several layers of digital information onto it. However Virtual Reality (VR) unlike Augmented Reality does not create whole artificial environments to replace the real one. Instead it appears in the direct view of an already existing environment whilst adding graphics, video and sound to it. Thus heightening our vision and other senses of the real world.
The name of Virtual Reality was conceived in the 1990’s and it was first commercially used in television and the military. Now that the internet and smartphones is common place in the 21st century, the next generation of Augmented Reality has been rolled out and is predominantly interconnected to a more interactive concept. One way this is being done is by 3D models being directly projected onto physical things, another way this is being done is 3D models being fused together with other things in real-time. There are a wide variety of Augmented Reality apps that impact our social life and habits as well as the entertainment industry as a whole.
What are the main types of Augmented Reality?
There are 4 main types of Augmented Reality today:
- Markerless AR
- Marker-based AR
- Projection-based AR
- Superimposition-based AR
A brief history of AR
Augmented Reality is not a new invention and the concept has been referenced as the early 1900’s.
- In 1901 the first ever recorded reference to Augmented Reality was made by an author named L. Frank Baum’s novel ‘The Master Key’ in which he described the ‘Character Marker’.
- In 1952 a cinematographer named Moton Heilig created the ‘Sensorama Machine’ which was the first virtual reality (VR) machine in the world.
- The ‘Sensorama Machine’ was patented by Morton Heilig in 1962.
- In 1968 Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull created head-mounted display which was the first of its kind. It was a crude design that displayed only primitive computer graphics. The named it ‘The sword of Damocles’.
- Myron Krueger in 1974 created an artificial reality laboratory called Videoplace. The scientists had envisaged the interaction with digital things by human movements. This concept was then later implemented for certain video cameras, projectors and onscreen silhouettes.
- Steve Mann developed a portable computer called EyeTap which was also the first of its kind. It was designed to be worn in front of the eye. It worked by recording the scene and then adding superimposed effects on it later, it was then shown to a user who could play with the EyeTap via head movements.
- Robert Morris together with Douglas George developed a prototype of a heads-up display (HUD). It overlaid the real sky with astronomical data.
- Two Boeing company researchers David Mizell and Thomas Caudell created the term Augmented Reality when it was mentioned in their work in 1990.
- Louis Rosenburg created ‘Virtual Fixtures’ an Augmented Reality system in 1992
- Mike Abernathy and frank Delgado led a group of scientists to test a new navigation software that worked by using videos shot by helicopters to generate street data and runways.
- Hirozaku Kato, a Japanese scientist, developed ARToolKit and later published it in 2000. It was an open source SDK. Following this it was adjusted to be compatible with Adobe programs.
- Trimble Navigation proposed a helmet-mounted Augmented Reality system for the outdoors.
- Google Glass was beta tested by Google in 2013, it used Bluetooth to provide it with an internet connection.
- Two brand new technologies ‘Windows Holographic’ and ‘HoloLens’ were presented by Microsoft in 2013. They were Augmented Reality goggles that displayed high definition holograms via a variety of sensors.
- Pokemon Go was launched by Niantic in 2016 for handheld devices. The application caused a stir in the gaming industry and sector as a whole and earned more $2 000 000 for Niantic in its first week. This vastly surpassed expectations and has paved the way for Augmented Reality to go to the next level as companies are using the games underlying and fundamental basics to create their own apps and games, some of the sectors using this include the healthcare sector and even the military.
AR in different sectors
In the 21st century many different businesses need to adapt to the difficulties facing them. One of the ways they are doing this is by embracing the new technologies such as Augmented Reality. They are using these technologies to innovate and make their businesses more efficient and profitable in both the short and the long term.
The healthcare sector is one of the industries in which Augmented Reality is having the biggest effect. Augmented Reality is being used and is having a drastic effect on the quality of treatment patients are receiving, it is also vastly improving the performance of medical professionals.
One of the ways in which Augmented Reality is helping doctors is by overlaying CT scans on their bodies. Whereas surgeries used to be invasive and require several monitors and endoscopic scanners, currently only require a pair of Augmented Reality goggles/glasses which feeds the surgeons all the relevant information that they need, this allows them to stay focused on their tasks.
Augmented Reality is also being used to educate in the healthcare industry. One way in which this is being done is by showing the impacts and effects of different diseases as well as what happens as time goes on. This helps doctors in training to learn the pathology and consequences of many different conditions which in turn helps in providing more effective prevention and treatment.
Another sector where Augmented Reality is having the greatest effect is the education sector. Learning is becoming more enjoyable for children who are visual learners and more enjoyable for adults to teach. Also it is vastly improving the education of children who are developmentally challenged.
There are dozens of ways Augmented Reality is being used in education. For example if a child was to point an Augmented Reality enabled device at a picture of a dog, the would be able to see what sound it makes, give you some facts about dogs and teach you more about dogs through interactive quizzes and videos. This interactivity has a big improvement on children’s attention span and will to learn, whilst also making children more involved in the learning process which means they are more likely to remember what they learn.
However Augmented Reality is not only being used in school based environments but also in other environments such as at landmarks or museums. For example visitors in a museum can download an app which they can proceed to point at an exhibit or a QR code, this will enable them to access more information on the exhibit and receive a more interactive and in-depth tour of the exhibit.
Augmented Reality is being used for many different things in this industry. Many car manufacturers have started using Augmented Reality to create cars before manufacturing the physical counterpart. Many carmakers are also using Augmented Reality to experiment and create different ways of improving the driving experience, one example of this is see-through displays.
One of the sectors where Augmented Reality is having the greatest effect is in the military. It is being used for various things such as enhancing training and situational awareness.
Augmented Immersive Team Training (AITT) is a training system that uses a Augmented Reality enables goggles attached to a combat helmet that projects realistic and life-sized training scenarios into a marines line of sight. Tactical Augmented Reality (TAR) is another Augmented Reality based system that has been designed and developed by the US army to see who is a friendly and who is an enemy during a military operation.
A head-mounted display called ARC-4 that integrates state-of-the-art head tracking sensors, software for network management and intuitive UI that is used to render significant augmented information into a soldier’s field of view.
An industry where Augmented Reality has created a strong foot-hole is the retail industry. Businesses are using Augmented Reality for many different tasks such as proving an unprecedented level of interaction both online and in-store between their products and their customers.