Have you ever created your personal avatar using Snap, played PokemonGo, or visualized how a piece of furniture will align in your sitting room? If you have, that was a taste of augmented reality. This article will tell you all you need to know about augmented reality. Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
What Is Augmented Reality
Augmented reality technology permits the superimposition of digital images onto a physical setting. An engaging 3D experience featuring the real world and a computer-generated outlook. Augmented Reality technology presents a much-improved layout of the real physical environment using visual and audio aids and sensations. These aids are delivered through technological means. The enhanced real-world perspective is made possible by a combination of hardware and software tools. Hardware such as tablets, augmented reality glasses, and smartphones. Augmented reality technology allows you experience the real world concurrently with a computer-generated perception unlike virtual reality, where you experience an artificial environment devoid of real-world elements. Your real world remains the same, augmented reality only modifies it. Essentially it functions to alter the visual perception of your environment to avail you of more information.
Augmented reality is a driving force of the fourth industrial revolution. The latest revolution in the business world places priority on improved data collection and analytics—augmented reality makes this possible. Its ability to bring to focus, specific details of the physical environment and also provide a better understanding of these features, bring about useful and actionable insights. In a nutshell, inputs made available by augmented reality can be utilized by companies to guide their decision-making. They also inform marketing strategies—companies become more aware of customers’ behavior via augmented reality
It is important to note that augmented reality is not the same as virtual reality. Although both can be referred to as extended reality, they are not the same. Augmented reality retains your physical environment. It only adds additional information to it, whereas virtual reality places you in a completely different environment—an artificial environment. With AR, you are in the form of mixed reality, not a new environment.
What are the types of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality exists in two major forms. They are:
Marker-based Augmented Reality:
This kind of augmented reality is image-based. It employs the use of image recognition to identify objects which have been pre-loaded on the AR application. So when you bring an object to focus, the AR tool is able to identify the position and spatial coordinate through your smartphone camera. You can easily achieve this by setting your camera to grayscale. A marker then compares this image with the pre-loaded images on the application. Immediately your AR application picks up a match. It uses this information to determine the right spot to place the augmented image.
Marker-less Augmented Reality:
This kind of augmented reality is much more complex. It is not image-dependent. A marker-less AR relies on a recognition algorithm. In this type of augmented reality, the AR tool uses colors, patterns, and shapes to determine the specific object. Basically, it has to identify the object as it appears and orientate it using GPS, accelerometer, compass, and time.
It is necessary you know which kind of AR works best for your business before choosing one. The type of AR used determines how augmented images will be generated and displayed.
How Does Augmented Reality Work
Augmented reality works by infusing digital information into the real-world setting to create a unique and interactive 3D experience. The success of augmented reality is largely dependent on competent AR tools such as a camera, accelerometers, processors, input devices, sensors, a display, navigating compass, and a global positioning system (GPS). All these tools work hand in hand to create augmented reality. They are typically present on mobile devices. So a random smartphone user can experience augmented reality. While GPS helps to locate your exact position, the solid-state compass determines your phone’s orientation in space.
A great deal of computation and computing power goes into creating augmented reality. Devices with low processing power can’t be used for augmented reality. The augmented reality process involves:
- An augmented reality device such as a smartphone, tablet, or glass focuses on a specific object or physical surroundings. For instance, the outlook of your bedroom or a piece of furniture.
- Next, the AR device downloads information about the object or layout from the cloud. It interlaces this digital information with the physical view using GPS, sensors, and accelerometers, effectively generating a unique 3D interface.
- This 3D duplicate functions to link the real world and the virtual world.
The 3D interface is also interactive, so you can move elements within this environment and issue commands to the cloud using gestures and voice prompts.
Augmented reality applications
Most retail companies, such as IKEA, are now using augmented reality to assist users in making the right purchases. Augmented reality allows users to be able to preview products. Customers can visualize how a piece of furniture will be in their homes, so they know whether it is ideal to buy it or not.
Augmented reality has taken prototyping a step further. Using augmented reality, product designers can visualize and experience their prototypes in real-time. So you can walk about in your design and see things from different orientations. Hence, all necessary adjustments are done in real-time data and virtual worlds before making a physical design.
Augmented reality is applied to maps to provide more vivid and clearer directions. It outlines the path to your destination using a live road view. Rather than tracking lines and turns, you are instead working with much clearer navigation. Augmented reality also helps to highlight business outlets in your locality.
Augmented reality also finds application in the world of digital worlds of entertainment and gaming. AR gaming apps overlay computer-generated virtual images onto users’ physical environments, bringing about a whole new gaming experience. Also, social media platforms utilize augmented reality to help users creatively add effects to their pictures. The result is an animated replica. TikTok recently added a feature that allows users to add AR effects to their videos.
The architecture industry greatly benefits from augmented reality. Architects can visualize building plans, fine-tune them, and build with precision. The same applies to all forms of construction. In fact, when the term augmented reality was initially introduced in 1990, it was used by Boeing’s employee, Thomas Caudell, to describe the mechanism of action of the head-mounted gears worn by Boeing electricians when installing complex wiring harnesses.
Museums employ augmented reality to help visitors to relive an excavation site. AR technology also assists archaeologists in their research. Archaeologists can use it to reconstruct an excavation site.
Augmented reality ensures quality during the production process and reduces the occurrence of defects. AR helps to optimize production. A technician can use AR glasses to scan a product for defects. Once detected, the defects are immediately sorted out.
Workflow Maintenance and Safety
Augmented reality helps companies achieve seamless workflows and also guarantees safety at work. Employees working with a machine can easily obtain information about the machine via AR., and even reach out to an expert across the world to assist in evaluation and repairs. Therefore production is uninterrupted, and performance is top-tier.
Examples of Augmented Reality
Over the years, augmented reality technology has been improved, and it’s finding use in more sectors. It’s much more than a marketing tool. It is also used for entertainment purposes—PokemonGo is a good example of this. In this game, players are busy catching Pokemon creatures positioned in their physical surroundings using their GPS. Other examples of augmented reality include:
The application uses AR, which superimposes a filter on your image. Your Snap avatar is an example of augmented reality.
The retail app by Target has a feature that enables clients to take a picture of a particular space in their home and visualize how an object such as a chair, tv set will fit in. This helps to guide customers to make the right purchases.
Apple Measure App
This is also another example of augmented reality. This app allows Apple iOS users to measure the distance between any two points in their surroundings. You measure without having to use tape.
Benefits of Augmented Reality
Increased User Engagement
Augmented reality boosts user engagement. It allows customers to interact with brands on a much more personal scale. Augmented reality allows users to generate personal content within a brand’s product. For instance, Snapchat users can create their personal animated photos by applying AR-powered filters. The result is users become more engaged. Increased user engagement boosts brand awareness. These AR-powered images can be shared with friends.
Companies are now leveraging augmented reality to enhance customer engagement. According to a recent survey, approximately 83 million consumers in the US make use of augmented reality monthly. The ability of augmented reality to provide information in a quick and well-detailed manner makes it appealing and engaging to customers.
Gucci and Ultra offer virtual product testing powered by augmented reality. Customers can test their products in real time and remotely. This brings about a whole new user experience. As a result, customers engage more with the product
Consumers usually face the dilemma of selecting which product to purchase. This becomes less of an issue with augmented reality. All the information they need to know about a product is available using this novel technology. Hence an effective way of boosting sales is by using augmented reality technology to market products. Being able to visualize how a chair would look in your sitting room makes you confident in your decision to buy it. The return rate of products is also significantly reduced.
Since augmented reality ensures a much higher product engagement, it evokes more emotions. When customers become more emotionally attached to a product, it makes them more inclined to make a purchase.
Augmented reality technology can help you stay ahead of the competition if used appropriately. You can distinguish your brand from the others using augmented reality. You can use augmented reality to solve a problem commonly encountered by your product users. Nike did this with their AR app. Using this AR app, customers wishing to purchase a shoe from their store can easily scan their feet using a smartphone camera to obtain the actual size. This guides them in ordering the right size shoe. We all know how getting the right shoe size can be difficult at times.
Fast-paced And Synchronized Training
With augmented reality, all aspects of a training session occur simultaneously. The traditional way of conducting training sessions is costly and highly cognitive. Employees will first have to digest the training manual before they can fully apply the knowledge. AR-powered training requires less budgetary allocation and tools. Participants learn and apply what they learn almost immediately. AR-powered training sessions feature simulated real-life scenarios. This is why it is widely employed by automobile and manufacturing companies to train their employees. The extended reality offered by augmented reality keeps employees immersed in the training module and hastens its speed. Employees learn all they should quickly and are able to make decisions faster and confidently. Companies, in turn, can evaluate the efficiency of the training session at no cost.
Developing And designing For AR
Developing and designing for augmented reality (AR) requires a thoughtful approach that takes into account the unique characteristics and challenges of this technology. Whether you are creating AR experiences for mobile devices, smart glasses, or other AR platforms, here are some key considerations to keep in mind:
Understand the Technology:
Before diving into AR development, it’s important to have a solid understanding of how AR works and the capabilities and limitations of the target platform. Familiarize yourself with AR tracking and mapping techniques, such as marker-based tracking, simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM), or image recognition. This knowledge will inform your design decisions and ensure that your AR experiences are technically feasible and optimized for the intended platform.
Define the User Experience:
Consider the context in which your AR experience will be used and the goals you want to achieve. Understand your target audience and their needs, and design the AR experience accordingly. Define the core interactions, features, and content that will be part of the experience. Determine how users will interact with the AR content, whether through touch, gestures, voice commands, or a combination of inputs. Design intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that guide users through the AR experience seamlessly.
Plan for Real-World Integration:
AR is all about blending virtual content with the real world, so it’s essential to consider how your AR elements will interact with physical objects and natural environments. Understand the spatial context in which your AR content will be placed and ensure that it aligns correctly with the user’s surroundings. Consider occlusion, which involves virtual objects appearing behind or in front of real-world objects to create a sense of depth and realism. This requires accurate tracking and depth perception.
AR experiences can be demanding in terms of processing power and battery life. Optimize your code and assets to ensure efficient performance to create smooth and responsive AR applications. Minimize unnecessary computations, reduce the polygon count of 3D models, and compress textures without sacrificing visual quality. Test your AR experiences on the target devices to ensure they run smoothly and provide a seamless user experience.
Iterate and Test:
AR development often involves iterative design and testing. Build prototypes or mockups to validate your ideas and gather user feedback. Test the AR experience in different lighting conditions, environments, and various user scenarios to identify any usability issues or technical challenges. Incorporate user feedback and iterate on your design to refine the experience and enhance end-user satisfaction.
AR experiences should be accessible to a wide range of users, including those with disabilities. Ensure that your AR application is designed with accessibility principles in mind. Provide options for users with visual impairments, such as audio cues or haptic feedback. Consider color contrast for users with color blindness. Test your AR experience with diverse user groups to identify accessibility barriers and make necessary adjustments.
Stay Updated and Evolve:
AR technology is rapidly evolving, so it’s essential to stay updated with the latest advancements, tools, and platforms. Explore new AR development frameworks and libraries that can streamline your development process. Keep an eye on emerging hardware, such as improved AR glasses or headsets that may offer enhanced AR capabilities. Experiment with new AR features and interactions to push the boundaries of what’s possible in AR experiences.
Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality vs. Mixed Reality: A Comparative Analysis
While AR, VR, and MR aim to enhance human experiences and interactions with the digital world, they differ in their approaches and applications. AR enhances the real world with virtual elements, VR creates a fully immersive digital environment, and MR seamlessly blends virtual and real-world objects. Each technology offers unique advantages and limitations:
VR provides the highest level of immersion, completely immersing users in a virtual environment and blocking out the physical world. This level of immersion can create intense and captivating experiences, but it also limits the user’s awareness of the real world, which may be problematic in certain scenarios. AR, on the other hand, allows users to remain connected to their surroundings while overlaying virtual content, providing a more blended and contextually rich experience. Mixed reality falls somewhere in between, offering a balance between immersion and real-world interaction.
In terms of interaction, VR offers the most extensive capabilities. Users can typically interact with virtual objects using hand controllers, gestures, or even full-body tracking, allowing for high engagement and manipulation within the virtual environment. AR enables users to interact with virtual elements within the real world, often through touch or gesture-based interactions on a mobile device or AR glasses. Mixed reality combines the physical and virtual realms, enabling users to interact with virtual objects as if they were part of the real world, enhancing the sense of presence and realism.
AR, VR, and MR have distinct applications and industries where they excel. AR finds widespread use in areas like gaming, marketing, education, and healthcare, where overlaying digital content in the real world enhances user experiences and facilitates practical applications. VR shines in gaming and entertainment, simulation-based training, virtual tourism, and therapeutic applications. Its ability to transport users to entirely new environments makes it a powerful tool for immersive storytelling and experiential learning. MR, with its seamless integration of virtual and physical elements, shows great potential in fields like architecture, manufacturing, remote collaboration, and industrial training, where the ability to interact with virtual objects within a real-world context is crucial.
Each of these technologies requires specific hardware and software infrastructure. VR typically necessitates a high-performance computer, a VR headset with motion-tracking capabilities, and sometimes additional peripherals for full interactivity. AR can be experienced on smartphones or tablets with AR-enabled apps, while more advanced AR experiences may require dedicated AR glasses or headsets. Mixed reality relies on specialized headsets that offer spatial mapping and tracking, enabling the blending of virtual and physical elements in real-time. The hardware requirements and costs associated with each technology can significantly impact their accessibility and adoption.
Augmented Reality Companies
These companies offer great augmented reality solutions. They include:
Microsoft entered the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality space with its HoloLens product. Hololens is an Mixed reality (MR) headset which is an emergent technology that blends virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). This Mixed reality tool produces a precise hands-free job. It also comes with the added benefit of access to a plethora of apps backed by the security, scalability, and support of the Microsoft cloud. HoloLens 2 can be applied in healthcare delivery, construction, manufacturing, and engineering. It saves time, and it is efficient. Car manufacturing company Audi and aircraft manufacturers Airbus utilize HoloLens 2 to boost productivity at low costs.
Google has a host of augmented reality solutions. This includes Google Maps, which provides live road feeds, helping users find their way easily and faster. Google search engine has been upgraded with AR. Users can now place digital objects obtained from a search result or a website directly into chrome and conduct a search.
Google also has the ARcore, which can be used by users to create new mixed reality experiences, richly interfacing with their virtual and real worlds.
One of the most innovative companies in the last decade. Snapchat is helping to bring more and more people acquainted with the concept of augmented reality. In addition to its AR picture filter, Snapchat has also released its own AR glasses. The AR glass lenses provide wearers with a real-world view interlaced with digital elements.
This AR company provides VC-backed start-ups and upcoming tech companies with custom AR software. iTechArt provides AR tools that allow users to combine their physical environment with computer-generated animations. These tools also produce the same effect on high-definition videos.
Citrusbits serves top clients. National Geographic, Mercedes-Benz, and Burger King, to mention a few. They offer a wide range of augmented reality solutions ranging from social media development to game development. That’s an interesting portfolio.
Just like Citrusbits, Groove Jones also serves top brass, including US Soccer, Toyota, and Volkswagen. Groove Jones has a team of innovative artists and engineers that build on current AR technologies to develop creative and engaging digital experiences. Over the years, they have done this creditably well.
What makes 4Experience stand out is the fact that they have AR solutions for almost every industry; marketing, entertainment, construction, education, healthcare, and a host of several others. Its AR solutions are popularly used in game and app development.
Though Scanta is well known for its flagship product, the VA shield, it is a security tool that wards off machine learning attacks from the virtual assistant chatbox. They have also done some work in the augmented reality space. Most of which have to do with avatars and emojis. They developed an application that allows users to communicate and express their emotions using AR emojis.
This is also another great augmented reality company. It offers unique solutions such as 3D animated layouts and projection mapping. You can perfectly describe Next/Now as an extended reality studio.
VironIT is a major provider of custom software development services. The company offers an array of high utility technologies to provide unique solutions to customers. Its AR solutions are applied in the development of mobile and web applications. It is an ideal AR vendor.
Future Of Augmented Reality
The augmented reality market has been enjoying a steady geometric progression. From current projections, it is expected to continue in this upward trend. The emergence of the 5G network adds credence to this estimation. The proliferation of the 5G network is expected to make AR more realistic as a result of enhanced cloud-based AR experiences. Users will be able to draw out programs from anywhere in the world and interact with these applications in split seconds.
The remote working condition adopted by most companies during the Covid-19 pandemic has opened them to the opportunity of having a superimposed real and virtual world via augmented reality. Companies are now looking to take advantage of the extreme connectivity AR offers; AR allows people to interact with one another as though they are in the same space without anyone having to leave their present location. Most companies will begin to incorporate AR in every aspect of their workflow for enhanced output.
Augmented reality is projected to become a regular feature in our daily lives. It will completely change how we interact with our physical surroundings and the virtual world. As of now, the upward trend is showing no signs of abating.