Let’s face it: Augmented Reality (AR) is one of the most talked-about topics in technology today. And for a good reason. Over the past year alone, we have bore witness to its meteoric rise within mainstream technology. Even mega-successful companies like Google and WayRay are leveraging the power of AR technology to create novel experiences that were once thought to be impossible.
And that’s not all. According to stats and trends, AR will continue to grow as its influence is expected to be felt in every major industry that we know. Still, there are many questions that people have about this technology: what is augmented reality? How does it work? What is it going to look like in the future?
If you’re looking for an easy-to-read overview on AR, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be covering these questions and more right here in this blog post. Ready for your crash-course in AR? Let’s get right to it.
What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality is an interactional experience in which computer-generated content is incorporated into the real world in order to enhance how someone interprets and relates to the physical environment. These layers of digital information, be them digital text, sound, 3D models, or virtual objects, work in tandem with a user’s existing environment to change how that person perceives reality.
Those of you who may be unfamiliar with AR may associate it with another closely-linked technology called Virtual Reality (VR). While they are similar, make no mistake: they aren’t the same. The key difference is in how each type of technology distorts reality. While AR enhances it, VR uses technology to create whole digital environments that completely replace the real world. With AR, although some elements of a user’s experience are digitized, the user is conscious that his immediate environment is 100% real. AR is a modern type of technology whose name was first coined in the 1990s although its initial, primitive phases of development started as early as the 1970s.
In the early 2000s, developers started taking such an interest in AR that by the end of 2015, a few major names had already staked a claim to its advancement. Of worthy mention is the MIT Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who, in 2009, launched SixthSense, a device that uses four sensors attached to a user’s fingers to manipulate the images that it projects. Then, along came one of the biggest guns to put its two cents in: Google. Google was the first major player to bring XR (AR, VR, and MR) to smart glasses with their Google Glass in 2013 although the project was later deemed unsuccessful and was discontinued. Since then, more companies have been developing exciting ways to merge AR with things that the average user would benefit from.
How does Augmented Reality work?
Now that we’ve looked at what AR is, let’s examine the underlying mechanisms that allow it to work. We’ve broken them down into small sections so that you can get a step-by-step walkthrough of what goes into AR to make it work, starting with:
- Cameras & Sensors – These form part of the fundamentals of AR. In order for AR to enhance your immediate surroundings, it first needs to understand your surroundings. Where are you? Are you in a commercial area? If so, what types of stores are nearby? All of this data is collected via cameras or sensors on an AR device which scan your environment and use that information to generate 3D models.
- Processing – The data that the device collects through its cameras or sensors are then processed and interpreted by the device’s CPU. In much the same way as a computer or smartphone relies on its processing unit to accomplish tasks so too does an AR device. Once the data has been processed, the device understands how to measure direction, speed, angles, cardinal points, and everything related to a user’s spatio-temporal location.
- Display – Once the device has interpreted its surroundings, it projects it in a digitized format that is plastered over the user’s view of the real world. These projections may or may not be enhanced by mirrors that are strategically placed on a device to aid in displaying proper image alignment.
Why Augmented Reality Is Making Its Mark
Although AR is a branch of modern technology that is still in its trial and testing phases, bucket loads of money are being invested into its development. Why? The answer’s easy: because it can complement just about every area of our lives. When used properly, AR is a technology that can leave a positive imprint in a myriad of areas.
Take the retail industry in Ecommerce, for instance.
Incorporating AR during a shopper’s experience can eliminate several drawbacks of online shopping, the most obvious one being that the user is disadvantaged by their inability to interact directly with the product.
This is because the power of AR can be used to allow users to interact with 3D models of a desired product. In doing so, a customer is brought one step closer to as physical a shopping experience as possible while still retaining the comfort of doing so online.
You can already begin to imagine the wonders that AR solutions would bring for customers who buy clothes on platforms like Ebay, Shopify, or Amazon.
This is supported by stats from BRB Consulting which attest that 50% of online shoppers prefer to do business with a store that offers some type of technology-enhanced shopping experience.
AR is already making its presence felt in other areas, such as:
- Education – By way of interactive models that are integrated in learning and training.
- Tourism & Travel – Through navigations with Google Maps that make it easier to identity important sites, landmarks, and areas of interest.
- Design – The adaptation of 3D models that create as real a replica to the projected outcome of a project as possible.
- Medicine – Facilitates the completion of mock-surgical procedures.
What The Future Holds For Augmented Reality
Based on trends in AR, statisticians are already forecasting mega-growth over the next five years for this area of technology.
According to a study published by Research and Markets, the combined value of the AR and VR market is expected to surpass $90 billion by 2023, with AR projected to surpass VR in sales from growth thanks to its anticipated 73.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
To put that into perspective, in their study, Digi-capital equates that 73.8% CAGR to a whopping $70-75 billion in AR market value by 2023.
These statistics mirror the expected and much-anticipated evolution of AR as software developers continue to discover new ways of utilizing it as a tool to reinvent a user’s experience with reality.
Augmented Reality: Wrapping It Up
In short, Augmented Reality is a booming industry that is forecast for growth in the years to come.
With its expected pervasive presence, soon, businesses across all niches will have no choice but to devise strategies on how they can leverage this technology to the betterment of their enterprise’s growth.
Some have already started by reaching out to reputable marketing agencies that offer Augmented Reality solutions in order to keep them competitive and on the cutting edge of technology.
Whatever the case, one thing is clear: AR is here and it’s here to stay.