Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes virtual objects into the real world by combining sensing and recognition technologies with advanced display systems. AR enhances a person’s ability to interact with digital content in the physical world. This technology is typically used in applications such as gaming, training, product testing, professional visualizations, marketing, industrial automation, navigation, and entertainment.
AR is different from Virtual Reality (VR), which allows users to completely lace themselves in an entirely virtual world. In AR, digital objects are superimposed onto a person’s view of the physical world, rather than entirely replacing it.
The term augmented reality was first coined by scientist and engineer Tom Caudell in 1990, who was working on aircraft assembly. In the years since then, the technology has seen a rapid increase in investments and applications, with major brands like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook investing heavily in AR. Its applications have become widespread, with industries ranging from healthcare applications to workforce training.
AR is composed of several components, including a display system, tracking or sensing algorithms and devices, and computer vision algorithms. The display system is the source of the digital content, for example, a smartphone, television, or head-mounted device. The tracking system monitors and records changes in the environment or user’s movements, such as data from a camera or sensors, and calculates the distance between the user and the AR objects. Finally, the computer vision algorithms recognize and analyze objects in the environment, making it possible for the system to recognize objects and respond to them accordingly.
As the technology continues to develop, new forms of relying on augmented reality are being created. This ranges from smartphone applications like Pokémon Go, to interactive tables and more. With the development of more powerful and efficient processors, the possibilities of what augmented reality can do are great open as developers are able to explore the potential of this technology like never before.