Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it.
Augmented reality apps are written in special 3D programs that allow the developer to tie animation or contextual digital information in the computer program to an augmented reality “marker” in the real world. When a computing device’s AR app or browser plug-in receives digital information from a known marker, it begins to execute the marker’s code and layer the correct image or images.
AR applications for smartphones typically include global positioning system (GPS) to pinpoint the user’s location and its compass to detect device orientation. Sophisticated AR programs used by the military for training may include machine vision, object recognition and gesture recognition technologies
There are some fields that AR can be used:
AR was applied to aid archaeological research. By augmenting archaeological features onto the modern landscape, AR allowed archaeologists to formulate possible site configurations from extant structures.
AR can aid in visualizing building projects. Computer-generated images of a structure can be superimposed into a real life local view of a property before the physical building is constructed there. AR can also be employed within an architect’s workspace, rendering into their view animated 3D visualizations of their 2D drawings. Architecture sight-seeing can be enhanced with AR applications allowing users viewing a building’s exterior to virtually see through its walls, viewing its interior objects and layout.
AR applied in the visual arts allows objects or places to trigger artistic multidimensional experiences and interpretations of reality.
The AR-Icon can be used as a marker on print as well as on online media. It signals the viewer that digital content is behind it. The content can be viewed with a smartphone or tablet.
AR is used to integrate print and video marketing. Printed marketing material can be designed with certain “trigger” images that, when scanned by an AR-enabled device using image recognition, activate a video version of the promotional material. AR can enhance product previews such as allowing a customer to view what’s inside a product’s packaging without opening it.
App iWow, a mobile device-based augmented reality enhanced world globe
In educational settings, AR has been used to complement a standard curriculum. Text, graphics, video, and audio were superimposed into a student’s real time environment. Textbooks, flashcards and other educational reading material contained embedded “markers” or triggers that, when scanned by an AR device, produced supplementary information to the student rendered in a multimedia format. As AR evolved students could participate interactively. Computer-generated simulations of historical events, exploring and learning details of each significant area of the event site could come alive.
Augmented reality technology enhanced remote collaboration, allowing students and instructors in different locales to interact by sharing a common virtual learning environment populated by virtual objects and learning materials.
Primary school children learn easily from interactive experiences. For instance, astronomical constellations and the movements of objects in the solar system were orient in 3D and overlaid in the direction the device was held and expanded with supplemental video information.
Emergency management/search and rescue
Augmented reality systems are used in public safety situations – from super storms to suspects at large.
The gaming industry embraced AR technology. A number of games were developed for prepared indoor environments, such as AR air hockey, Titans of Space, collaborative combat against virtual enemies, and AR-enhanced pool table games.
AR allowed industrial designers to experience a product’s design and operation before completion. Volkswagen used AR for comparing calculated and actual crash test imagery. AR was used to visualize and modify car body structure and engine layout. AR was also used to compare digital mock-ups with physical mock-ups for finding discrepancies between them.
AR provided surgeons with patient monitoring data in the style of a fighter pilot’s heads up display or allowed patient imaging records, including functional videos, to be accessed and overlaid. Examples include a virtual X-ray view based on prior tomography or on real time images from ultrasound and confocal microscopy probes, visualizing the position of a tumor in the video of an endoscope, or radiation exposure risks from X-ray imaging devices.
Spatial immersion and interaction
Augmented reality applications, running on handheld devices utilized as virtual reality headsets, can also digitalize human presence in space and provide a computer-generated model of them, in a virtual space where they can interact and perform various actions.
Building on decades of perceptual-motor research in experimental psychology, researchers at the Aviation Research Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign used augmented reality in the form of a flight path in the sky to teach flight students how to land a flight simulator. An adaptive augmented schedule in which students were shown the augmentation only when they departed from the flight path proved to be a more effective training intervention than a constant schedule. Flight students taught to land in the simulator with the adaptive augmentation learned to land a light aircraft more quickly than students with the same amount of landing training in the simulator but with constant augmentation or without any augmentation.
An interesting early application of AR occurred when Rockwell International created video map overlays of satellite and orbital debris tracks to aid in space observations at Air Force Maui Optical System. In their 1993 paper “Debris Correlation Using the Rockwell World View System” the authors describe the use of map overlays applied to video from space surveillance telescopes. The map overlays indicated the trajectories of various objects in geographic coordinates. This allowed telescope operators to identify satellites, and also to identify – and catalog – potentially dangerous space debris.
AR can augment the effectiveness of navigation devices. Information can be displayed on an automobile’s windshield indicating destination directions and meter, weather, terrain, road conditions and traffic information as well as alerts to potential hazards in their path. Aboard maritime vessels, AR can allow bridge watch-standers to continuously monitor important information such as a ship’s heading and speed while moving throughout the bridge or performing other tasks.
AR was used to facilitate collaboration among distributed team members via conferences with local and virtual participants. AR tasks included brainstorming and discussion meetings utilizing common visualization via touch screen tables, interactive digital whiteboards, shared design spaces, and distributed control rooms. Complex tasks such as assembly, maintenance, and surgery were simplified by inserting additional information into the field of view. For example, labels were displayed on parts of a system to clarify operating instructions for a mechanic performing maintenance on a system. Assembly lines benefited from the usage of AR.
Broadcast and live events
Weather visualizations were the first application of augmented reality to television. It has now become common in weather casting to display full motion video of images captured in real-time from multiple cameras and other imaging devices. Coupled with 3D graphics symbols and mapped to a common virtual geospace model, these animated visualizations constitute the first true application of AR to TV.
Tourism and sightseeing
Travelers used AR to access real-time informational displays regarding a location, its features, and comments or content provided by previous visitors. Advanced AR applications included simulations of historical events, places, and objects rendered into the landscape
AR systems such as Word Lens can interpret the foreign text on signs and menus and, in a user’s augmented view, re-display the text in the user’s language. Spoken words of a foreign language can be translated and displayed in a user’s view as printed subtitles.
It has been suggested that augmented reality may be used in new methods of music production, mixing, control and visualization. ARmony is a software package that makes use of augmented reality to help people to learn an instrument.
Augmented reality is becoming more frequently used for online advertising. Retailers offer the ability to upload a picture on their website and “try on” various clothes which is overlaid on the picture. Even further, companies such as Body metrics install dressing booths in department stores that offer full-body scanning. These booths render a 3-D model of the user, allowing the consumers to view different outfits on themselves without the need of physically changing clothes
Snapchat users have access to augmented reality in the company’s instant messaging app through use of camera filters.