What is Augmented Reality?

AR enriches the perception of virtual elements in the physical world.

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AR enriches the perception of virtual elements in the physical world. The word "Augmented" means to increase, extend or improve. Augmented reality (AR) can be understood as a form of virtual reality (VR) in which the real world is expanded or improved through the use of virtual elements

, usually by superimposing these elements on the view of the real world through the use of a visual device.

AR can work in many different ways and is used for many different reasons, but in most cases AR virtual objects are superimposed and plotted in a view of the real world, creating the illusion of occupying the same space. The AR devices have a display, an input device, a sensor, and a processor. 

These devices can be monitors, head-mounted displays, glasses, contact lenses, game consoles, and even smartphones, among others. Audio and touch feedback can be included in an AR system, as well as other non-visual methods and devices.

Although the AR is a form of VR, it is distinctly different. The virtual reality is a whole fully simulated experience - both the vision of "reality" that the objects contained in it, while the AR uses only a few virtual aspects, which are mixed with reality to form something different.

How augmented reality works

Augmented reality is live. For it to work, the user must be able to see the real world as it is now. The AR manipulates the space of the real world that the user sees, altering the user's perception of reality.

A form of AR, the user watches a live recording of the real world with virtual elements imposed on it. Many sporting events use this type of AR; the spectator can watch the game live from their TV but also see the scores superimposed on the playing field.

Another form of AR allows the user to look around their environment normally and in real-time, but through a display that overlays information to create the increased experience. 

An example of this is Google Glass, which is a device that looks a lot like a normal pair of glasses but includes a small screen on which the user can see GPS directions, check the weather, send photos and many other functions.

When a virtual object is positioned between the user and the real world, object recognition and computer vision can be used to allow the object to be manipulated by real physical objects and allow the user to interact with virtual elements.

For example, some mobile apps from some retailers allow buyers to select a virtual version of something they are considering buying, such as a piece of furniture and displaying it in their own home via the phone. 

They can see their real living room, for example, but the virtual sofa they have chosen is now visible through their screen, allowing them to decide if it fits that room and if they like the look of that room.

Another example allows customers to scan special products or codes (such as UPC

symbols ) that use AR to show the customer more information about a physical product before buying it, seeing reviews from other buyers or checking what's inside their package still not open.

Marker and Markerless AR

When object recognition is used with augmented reality, the system recognizes what is seen and then uses that information to engage the AR device. It is only when a specific marker is visible to the device that the user can interact with it to complete the AR experience.

These markers can be QR codes, serial numbers or any other object that can be isolated from its environment to be seen by the camera. Once registered, the augmented reality device may overlay information from that marker directly on the screen or open a link, play a sound, etc.

Augmented reality without a marker allows a system to use a location-based position or anchor points, such as a compass, GPS or accelerometer. These types of augmented reality systems are implemented when the location is critical, for example with AR navigation.

AR in layers

This type of AR uses a device used to recognize a physical space and then superimpose virtual information on it. This is how you can try on virtual clothes, check if a new piece of furniture will fit in your home, get funny tattoos and more.

AR projection

At first glance, it may seem the same as layered or superimposed augmented reality, but it is different in a specific way: real light is projected onto a surface to simulate a physical object. Another way of thinking about AR projection is a hologram.

A specific use for this type of augmented reality could be to project a keyboard or keyboard directly on a surface that allows the user to type using the projected virtual keyboard.

There are many advantages to using augmented reality in areas such as medicine, tourism, the workplace, maintenance, advertising, the military, and others.

AR in education

In some ways, learning with augmented reality can be easier and more fun and there are tons of AR apps that can facilitate this. A pair of glasses or a smartphone can be all you need to learn more about the physical objects around you, such as paintings or books.

An example of a free AR app is SkyView for Android and iOS, which allows you to point the phone at the sky or the ground and see where stars, satellites, planets, and constellations are located at that precise moment, both day and night and from the opposite side of the planet.

SkyView is considered a layered augmented reality app that uses GPS. It shows you the real world around you, like trees and other people, but also uses your current location and time to teach you where these objects are and give you more information about each of them.

Google Translate for Android and iOS is another example of a learning AR app. With it, you can scan the text in a language you don't understand and translate it for you in real-time.

AR in navigation

Displaying navigation routes on a windscreen or headset provides augmented reality instructions for drivers, cyclists, and other travelers so they don't have to look down at their GPS or smartphone device just to see which way to go. Pilots could use an AR system to display speed and altitude indicators directly within their view for the same reason.

Another use of an AR navigation app would be to overlay restaurant ratings, customer comments or menu items at the top of the building before entering inside. It could also show you the fastest route to the nearest Italian restaurant as you walk through an unknown city.

GPS AR apps such as AR Car Finder for Android and iOS can be used to find your parked car, or a holographic GPS system like WayRay may overlap driving directions right on the road in front of you.

AR in games

There are many AR games and AR toys that can blend the physical and virtual worlds and are available in many different forms for many devices. A well-known example is Snapchat, which allows users to overlay masks and funny drawings on their faces before sending a message via their smartphone. The app uses a live version of your face to add a virtual image. Another example of augmented reality games includes Pokemon GO!

What is a mixed reality?

The mixed reality (MR)

, as the name suggests, mixes real and virtual environments to form a hybrid reality. MR uses elements of virtual reality and augmented reality to create something new. 

It is difficult to classify MR as anything but augmented reality because the way it works is by superimposing virtual elements directly on the real world, allowing you to see both at the same time, very similar to AR.

However, a primary goal with mixed reality is that objects are anchored to real and physical objects with which you can interact in real-time. This means that MR could allow virtual characters to sit on real chairs in a room, or virtual rain to fall and hit real terrain with realistic physics.

Mixed reality allows the user to exist perfectly both in a real state with the real objects that surround them and in the virtual world with objects rendered by software that interact with real-world objects to create a completely immersive experience. The demonstration of Microsoft HoloLens is a good example of what is meant by mixed reality.

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