In all likeliness, you would have heard or read the term ‘Augmented Reality’ somewhere by now. It is quite a hot topic nowadays, and more and more people are talking about it with each passing day.
So what is it really?
Augmented Reality is a technology which allows virtual objects to be put in, and interacted with, in the real environment. For example, consider a situation that you are in a room. Now, there is a computer generated sofa besides a wall. That sofa is not real (it is a software generated graphic), but through advanced software, it has been mixed in the rear world environment. This is what Augmented Reality is in essence.
The typical meaning of the word “Augment” is – making something greater by adding to it. Basically, it is referring to the increase in size. However, Augmented Reality increases the interactivity or enhances a person’s experience of interaction with virtual objects by mixing or adding them in the actual environment.
How is Augmented Reality different from Virtual Reality?
Virtual Reality refers to an environment which is completely virtual or computer generated. It is like being inside a video game environment. Nothing that we would see in Virtual Reality would be real unlike Augmented Reality which is largely comprised of real environment with virtual objects or graphics in it.
In the smartphone industry, one of the most popular examples of Virtual Reality is the VR headset from Samsung. It is a device with integrated VR glasses and it is worn on the eyes using a strap (to wrap around the head) for proper support.
Currently, Virtual Reality is used to make video games more engaging as the player finds himself right inside the computer generated environment.
How Augmented Reality is used?
There are a number of ways this technology can be used in. In fact, it is already being used in various domains ranging from entertainment to medical applications and construction. In mobile phone gaming, one of the most popular (and basic) examples of the implementation of Augmented Reality is Pokemon Go. In this game, people see computer generated objects or animals in the real environment through the camera and screen of their smarpthones.
One of the biggest advantages of using this technology is that virtual imagery can be made totally in 3D, and the resultant interaction can be so real that the virtual object would have its perspective changed depending on the movement of the viewer. For example, Stack AR is a smartphone game based on Augmented Reality in which the player stacks blocks creating a pile of them. The virtual blocks in the game can be viewed in 3D format in the real environment using the phone’s rear camera. Now, the phone can be moved around while keeping the blocks in view, which means, the blocks can be viewed from different angles just like we see any real object in existence. This also implies that the scale of the object can increase or decrease as the viewer moves closer or farther from it.
The above are only simple examples of the implementation of Augmented Reality. It can be used in other much more advanced or complicated situations like in medical science (for example, to help understand how different human organs look and function without actually tampering with a human body). GPS (Global Positioning System) is another area where this technology can be of great help – to locate and pinpoint locations in a much more accurate manner. Computer generated texts and graphics can be used to direct to, and describe, locations, places, statues, artwork etc. There is so much that can be done using Augmented Reality.
There is no doubt that Augmented Reality is going to play a major role in future when it comes to interacting with various virtual creations. The possibilities of its applications are vast and mobile phone manufacturers are slowly making their hardware and software AR capable. Companies are already experimenting with gaming in order to make them more realistic and involving than ever before. It is only a matter of time that Augmented Reality, in one form or the other, becomes mainstream.
Image credits: Internet