Augmented Reality (AR) has been a buzzword and in the news since Pokemon Go took over the streets of the world a couple of years ago. But what is it really and how does it work?
The lines between the physical and digital worlds have started to blur and will continue to do so until there is a seamless integration that is part of our everyday lives. AR is what is enabling this synthesis. At its core, AR is the real-time blending of what you can see with the camera on your mobile device and digital representations of items, figures and even data.
With AR, we can merge the real and the imagined to create a virtual experience that can simulate things we ordinarily see when all the elements are real or create a view that is not real. For example, trying on a virtual piece of jewelry or showing the measurements of all the elements in a room.
AR enables us to visualize how things will look without actually having all the real elements in front of us. The possibilities are only limited by our imagination.
How does AR Work?
AR has an impressive array of capabilities that can make a big impact in many applications. The core principle of AR is to project digital layers on top of a physical layer, essentially augmenting reality. Without getting too technical, for this to happen, the layer of reality needs to be viewed or scanned with a digital camera, while the components of the digital layers need to be first created and made ready for use.
For AR Viewing, we need to have the digital representation of the things we will want to see. In order to display 3D images or virtual models of physical objects it is necessary to either build up their elements or scan the physical objects to create their 3D representations. For a less sophisticated version of AR, 2D object display can be achieved through the use of regular photos or graphic images, as long as the images capture the object from the necessary angle that can align with the view taken with the camera. This might be used to display things such as carpets, rugs or floor mats that would be laid flat on top of a surface in AR view.
With AR Scanning, the camera can be used to “recognize” the physical environment or elements, even a person. The scanning or mapping of the subject can be compared to a database of subjects that can then be identified. Once this is done, a digital layer can be shown on top of it which can be composed of any data: text, 2D & 3D images, videos, audio or any other form of information. As an example, you might see an item in your friend’s home and scan it. When it is identified, you can get all information about it including who makes it, who sells it and how much it costs. The practical applications are endless.
Augmented Reality is here now
There are already mobile applications available that allow you to try digital things on your face or body and to place digital versions of items in your home or office. Apple has recently released their new operating system, iOS11, which has been created with AR capabilities implemented through their ARKit. That means it has capabilities native to the phone that make it easier to build applications. Android’s version of AR is expected soon.
AR experiences are here and mobile devices that have AR capabilities at their core are spreading through the market. The consumer is already seeing AR and soon will be expecting it from all the retailers and services that they utilize. Remember when only a few banks had a mobile application?
Adapting to change and adopting new methods is critical to remaining competitive and avoid becoming obsolete. Human interaction with the digital world is quickly evolving and Augmented Reality is here to stay. The question is, are you ready for it?