What Is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a type of technology that shows you an enhanced version of the real world around you by overlaying a digital augmentation. For example, if you are looking at an empty field, AR may show you a rendering of your dream house in the field.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Augmented reality is a growing technology trend that is already available on many smartphones (think Snapchat lenses and shopping apps). AR brings an interactive 3D experience to users by enhancing their real-world view. A camera-equipped device is required as computer vision first processes the real-world surroundings. The augmented reality program then adds digital elements that create the illusion that the holographic content is a part of the physical world in front of you. AR can add objects, sounds, videos, and graphics to your current real-world view.

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual and Mixed Reality

The key difference between AR and virtual reality (VR) is that AR uses the existing real-world environment as the foundation for what the viewer sees, while VR completely creates a self-contained, computer-generated virtual environment. Mixed reality blends both the real and virtual world to create a new environment.

Applications & Examples of AR

Beyond the use of AR in games, there are many practical everyday uses for AR technology:

  • Retail — AR allows consumers to see how products look in their homes before purchasing
  • Mapping and navigation — AR can overlay information about local businesses on the street in front of you, or overlay navigation information on the windshield of planes and cars
  • Education — AR can enhance traditional learning methods by displaying additional content or 3D visualizations of what is written in textbooks
  • Healthcare — VR and AR in healthcare is improving distance learning while enhancing training outcomes
  • Maintenance and industry — AR reduces dependency on physical technical manuals and can improve productivity by overlaying relevant worker information at worksites
  • Entertainment and social media — AR can enhance user experience by allowing audiences or viewers to become active participants

Augmented Reality Hardware

AR technology can be incorporated into a variety of hardware. There are four types of AR devices currently on the market:

  • Heads up displays
  • Holographic displays
  • Smart glasses
  • Handheld

Since AR technology does not require dedicated hardware, it can be used on many phones and tablets (handheld devices). The two main platforms for AR are Apple (ARKit) and Google  (ARCore), which work on many iOS and Android devices, respectively.

Future of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality technology has opened up new growth points for businesses and is predicted to be a $198 billion market by 2025. Mobile AR applications will continue to evolve, allowing for more of them to be used on handheld devices. The global use of AR, combined with artificial intelligence, is predicted to transform the medical field. Visit SimX to see more VR and AR resources related to use in healthcare.