What is Augmented Reality?

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality, also known as AR, is the ability to augment digital and virtual information with the real world. The digital information can be in the form of graphics, sound, etc. For better understanding visualize the working of live filters in applications such as Snapchat. The live picture from the camera is an actual object while different elements added to it are all virtual. Augmented reality is made possible by hardware, software, and most importantly Artificial Intelligence. It promises to change the way in which the world works as it will have serious implication in every field from commerce to education, from tourism to navigation, and from medical science to military training.

AR vs VR

Augmented reality should not be confused with virtual reality. In virtual reality, we completely lose connection with the real world and experience a totally virtual environment with the help of VR devices like Headsets and Virtual Roller Coaster. On the other hand, AR enhances our experience of the real world by adding virtual elements to it.

Types of AR

The augmentation can be of two types constructive and destructive. In constructive augmentation, the virtual objects are added to the natural environment like in the application Pokémon Go, whereas in destructive augmentation the real-world objects are masked to look different. For example, in the latest edition of Google Maps Navigation, details of a building appear over it in maps so that maximum useful information is available to the user without any special effort.

History of AR

The first AR system that provided immersive mixed experience between real and imaginary world was developed by the United States Air Force for sake of training their pilots in the 1990s. But it wasn’t until the 21st century that AR was applied commercially. Initially, it was introduced in the Gaming industry but now it has found applications in many other industries as well. The reason for this increment of interest lies in the fact that it provides better customer experience and offers more chances to explore the new possibilities that have only been made possible by AR.

Applications of AR

The newest version of Google Maps navigation is arguably the best application in the recent past. Previously, users faced issues like losing the sense of direction and getting confused with the orientation of the map but now Google has given the option to just turn on the camera and it will automatically align the map and will help you navigate with the help of AR—Virtual arrow signs on screen would guide the user. Furthermore, users can also enable a virtual companion that will help them navigate. Sounds cool, right? For a working demo of these features, you can watch them on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nyy_13zl0Bs.

Moreover, AR can redefine architecture. Now with AR, the computer-generated model of a structure can be superimposed on the actual site and it will help in identifying any issues or problems that were previously going to pop out only once the structure was complete. In this way, it saves time and other resources. AR Headsets will ensure increased safety of construction site workers as the chances of accidents will drop significantly due to the virtual labeling of the construction sites. This can be a revelation for underground miners as a lot of accidents are reported annually in which miners are trapped and suffocated in mines.

In addition to that AR has various applications in the medical field. ‘Near-infrared Vein Finder’, a device which has been in use since 2005, helps locate veins inside the human body and projects them on the skin. Medics can now use AR during surgeries to superimpose data like x-rays for help in real-time during surgeries. HoloLens by Microsoft has gotten so advanced that it has been used to project holograms for Near-infrared Fluorescence-based Image Guided Surgery.

Privacy Concerns

Apart from all these benefits, AR has also aroused some privacy concerns. For AR to work efficiently and safely, there is a constant need to record and analyze the environment. This may result in a possible breach of privacy which could lead to some massive legal implications. Meanwhile, AR may also start identifying every person that we pass through just like social media sites identify persons from the images and this would be a serious breach of individual privacy and personal space. Having said that, we must stay positive as this is a developing technology for which new legislation, defining the code of conduct and limits of AR, will also be made in the future.

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