Ever wondered what “augmented reality” (AR) actually is? Get the details on this transformative technology, and find out how it’s being used in the real world.
Have you been wondering about what augmented reality (AR) is, and how it’s different from virtual reality?
Augmented reality uses smartphones or specially designed glasses to superimpose digital elements (like graphics, animation, or images) onto the physical world.
That heads-up display you see Tony Stark uses in his Iron Man suit? That’s an example of AR in the world of the Avengers.
AR uses a live camera feed to understand the physical world and adds digital content to real-world elements. Computer vision – also known as machine vision – is a subset of artificial intelligence (AI) that helps machines see the world around them and react accordingly in AR applications.
Here's how AR works: With information from live, real-time cameras, AR systems project digital content on top of real-life content. Sophisticated AR technology ensures that items line up correctly and are located in the right place, and that they update in real-time, even as you move.
As opposed to virtual reality, where the world around a user is 100% digital, AR keeps users in touch with the real world in front of them. But with the help of AR technology, the real world gets more interactive, more informative, and more fun!
5 Examples of Augmented Reality in Action
Here are five ways brands and organizations are using AR in the world today:
- The IKEA Place app lets shoppers digitally place 3-D, true-to-scale IKEA furniture in their own home, so they can check fit and visualize exactly how items will look in their setting.
- In military aircraft, augmented reality displays in helmets automatically label objects in the pilot’s field of view with information on distance, speed, bearing, and altitude. When the jet’s sensors pick up a potential threat, the aircraft projects information to the helmet display. The $400,000 helmet for the F-35 fighter jet even includes night vision and communicates with other planes so they can share data.
Now, some cars and trucks are starting to incorporate similar heads-up displays as safety features that reduce distraction and keep the driver’s eyes front and center. These automotive displays project real-time information like GPS maps directly onto the windshield.
- Retailers like Warby Parker, L’Oreal, and WatchBox now use AR to let customers try on items from the comfort of their homes and experiment with style recommendations from the brand.
- Nintendo’s Pokémon Go app introduced augmented reality to consumers on a massive scale. Pokémon Go users “caught” their favorite Pokémon by tracking superimposed images on the real world. The wildly popular game had up to 65 million users at the peak of its popularity.
- The interactive Element 4D app makes learning science and chemistry fun by enabling kids to find the names, atomic weights, and reactions of elements on the periodic table.
Augmented reality is one of the extended reality technologies that has the most short-term potential in the marketplace today, because it doesn't have to involve a special headset or goggles.
In most cases, AR users can use simple smartphones, tablets, or laptops (or anything with a camera and a digitally enabled screen) to use AR – leaving a world of opportunity available for brands and organizations that want to develop useful, profitable, and delightful AR experiences.
To learn more about augmented reality, check out my book, Extended Reality in Practice: 100+ Amazing Ways Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality Are Changing Business and Society.