In recent years augmented reality (AR) has gained an appreciable popularity. It would not be a hyperbole to mention that the famous game Pokémon Go brought about a Tsunami in the field of AR. It’s not that AR is a new technology rather its first reference appeared at the beginning of the 20th century. Since then a great deal of work was done on this technology but it was in the last several years that this technology caught the massive attention of the IT industry. Originally it was used extensively in the entertainment and the gaming businesses, but now due to vast possibilities of AR, it is now being used in other industries as well.
What is augmented reality?
Augmented reality (AR) provides a composite view in which computer-generated images are superimposed on top of your view of reality. This composite view augments the real world by computer-generated perceptual information, sometimes across multiple sensory modalities. The overlaid information is so interwoven with the physical world that it is perceived as an immersive aspect of the real environment.
Augmented reality (AR) vs virtual reality (VR)
It is quite often that people think that AR and VR are nearly the same technology, but as these technologies are gaining popularity, knowing the difference between them becomes important. Where AR alters one’s ongoing perception of a real-world environment, VR completely replaces the user’s real-world environment with a simulated one. To be more clear, with VR you can land on the Moon and with AR you can place the Moon in your drawing room.
Although AR has been around for years, it was only with Android and iOS smartphones (equipped with GPS, camera, and AR capabilities) that AR went global. Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore provides developers a gateway towards developing AR-rich apps. The boost in the number of AR powered apps and their global acceptance provides huge business prospects for both developers and enthusiasts.
The present state of play in AR
AR is achieved through a variety of technological innovations which can be implemented on their own or in conjunction with each other. These include:
- Processor, accelerometer, GPS, camera, mic… Smartphones are equipped with these (and many more) hardware components, which makes it that much easier to use it as an AR device. The number of components may vary from device to device, which in turn limits the AR rendering capability of the device.
- Displays: Displays are vital to AR devices; optically projecting the AR rich data on a device’s screen, a HUD, eyeglass etc. is important. Several other display devices can be incorporated to project AR data, e.g. head-mounted displays, contact lenses, virtual retinal displays, EyeTap (a device which changes the rays of light captured from the environment and substitutes them with computer generated ones), and Spatial Augmented Reality (SAR – which uses ordinary projection techniques as a substitute for a display of any kind).
- Sensors: GPS, gyroscopes, accelerometers, compasses, RFID, wireless sensors, touch recognition, speech recognition, eye tracking, and several other peripherals provide the capability to receive AR rich data.
- Software: The software brings all the components together and assembles all the data and put it to meaningful use. Advanced software can efficiently use the AR capabilities of a device. There are Augmented Reality Markup Language (ARML) and SDKs which provide a platform for AR development.
Applications of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality has found its way into our everyday lives through smart devices (e.g. smartphones). Its applications are as generic as decorating your room virtually to as advanced as practicing surgery in controlled environments. The gaming industry itself has incorporated AR based gaming to improve the experience of the community. For example, a tourist can use AR based apps to navigate around. They can also see details about museums and other places of interests in real-time. The applications of AR in commercial, educational, medical, military, etc. are unlimited.
Top 5 Augmented Reality Apps for Smartphones
The quality and usability of an AR app depends on its real-life application. Hence, instead of compiling a list of best AR apps, it’s better to have a look into the top AR apps around.
- Civilisations AR: Let’s start with the education industry. The BBC Civilisations AR app gives a lesson into historical artifacts in the luxury of your home. You can choose from more than 30 items in the catalog, and admire them. You can move, resize, and rotate each artifact anywhere as you wish. This app gives a sneak peek at the likely future of education in schools.
- IKEA: Want to buy a piece of furniture from IKEA, but are unsure on how it will look in your room or will it actually fit? The new IKEA app lets you choose from a list of more than 2,000 items and locate them in your room as you see fit. The colors and size of each item is represented to its actual specification for each 3D model.
- GIPHY: Video editing and sharing is a social trend. But, unfortunately, each of us are not skilled enough to work with sophisticated tools. With Giphy though, you can simply position GIFs on your videos as you record them. Painting and editing is easier or more fun with this AR powered app.
- Pokémon GO: Catching Pokémon, running around the neighborhood, this game allowed players to catch Pokémon in the real world. This game took the industry by surprise on seeing unprecedented global acceptance from users. It was a huge success, and that says something about the impact of AR on our lives.
- Google Lens: This application from Google has been under development for quite some time now. But, here’s the good news: it’s out. Through Google Lens, you can identify texts, objects, images, monuments, landmarks, and many much more. This app allows you to identify objects, texts, etc. in pictures. Just capture and leave the rest to Google to find it out for you.
Although there are a number of AR powered apps in the market, but AR’s future will always depend on the quality of the output that an end user receives, and AR has been quite successful in improving task efficiency. Although this technology has evolved to a great extent it has many more miles to go. In the coming years, more and more experts will be required who can successfully integrate AR with our daily life and then will the real challenge begin.