Augmented Reality


Augmented Reality (AR) may not be as exciting as a virtual reality roller coaster ride, but the technology is proving itself as a very useful tool in our everyday lives.

From social media filters, to surgical procedures, AR is rapidly growing in popularity because it brings elements of the virtual world, into our real world, thus enhancing the things we see, hear, and feel. When compared to other reality technologies, augmented reality lies in the middle of the mixed reality spectrum; between the real world and the virtual world.

Augmented reality is changing the way we view the world — or at least the way its users see the world. Picture yourself walking or driving down the street. With augmented-reality displays, which will eventually look much like a normal pair of glasses, informative graphics will appear in your field of view, and audio will coincide with whatever you see. These enhancements will be refreshed continually to reflect the movements of your head. Similar devices and applications already exist, particularly on smartphones like the iPhone.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it.

How Augmented Reality works?

The Augmented Reality technology can work using one of the following three approaches:

SLAM: SLAM is abbreviated as Simultaneous Localization and Mapping , it is the most effective way to provide virtual images over real-world things. SlAM is not any specific algorithm or software in fact it is an approach to solve complex AR simulation problems .SLAM simultaneously localizes sensors with respect to their surroundings, while at the same time mapping the structure of the environment.

Recognition based: Recognition based is also called as Marker based Augmented Reality used on camera to recognize visual markers or objects such as QR or 2D code . or natural feature tracking (NFT) markers , Recognition based AR technology depends on device camera to distinguish a marker from other real-world objects.

Location Based: It is also known as markerless augmented reality. location-based AR relies on a GPS, digital compass, velocity meter, or accelerometer to provide actual information about the location and the augmented reality visualizations are activated based on these inputs. Some common uses of location-based AR include mapping directions, finding nearby services, and other location-centric mobile apps.

Ways to Support Augmented Reality Technology:

Mobile Phones:

The viewer can see the input from the camera being modified on the screen. In case of Mobile Devices like smartphones and tablets, augmented reality technology can be used either through Location Services or camera or a combination of both.

PC and Smart TVs:

PC and connected TV players supports Augmented Reality by relaying the virtual objects over the input from a webcam. Since it is a difficult process to manipulate a tracker in front of the screen there is no many applications of Augmented Reality on PCs or smart TVs.

Smart Glasses: 

Head-mounted displays, glasses, and lenses, also supports the AR technology by making it an integral part of entire field of view. For example, there is an AR Helmet which can give your life like Augmented Reality experience while You driving. This means you can obtain information about directions, speed, etc. without the need to look at the speedometer or mobile phone.

Types of Augmented Reality with Uses

Augmented reality does not end at your smartphone. There are many more ways to enhance your perception of the world.

Let us have a look at the types of AR

Projection based AR

Just like anything else which is beyond our reach, projection based AR feels more attractive (at least as of now) compared to an AR app you can install on your phone. As is obvious by its name, projection based AR functions using projection onto objects. What makes it interesting is the wide array of possibilities.

One of the simplest is projection of light on a surface. Speaking of lights, surfaces and AR. The picture depicts one of the simplest uses of projection based AR where light is fired onto a surface and the interaction is done by touching the projected surface with hand. The detection of where the user has touched the surface is done by differentiating between an expected (or known) projection image and the projection altered by interference of user’s hand.

One of the widespread uses of projection based AR techniques is noninteractive. Projection on objects can be used to create deception about the position, orientation and depth of an object. In such a case an object is taken into consideration and its structure is studied in depth. The object’s distance from the projection is calculated and the projection light sequence is then designed carefully to deceive the viewer’s mind.

Recognition based AR

Recognition based AR focuses on recognition of objects and then provide us more information about the object. e.g. when using your mobile phone to scan a barcode or QR code, you actually use object recognition technology. Fact is, except location based AR systems, all other types do use some type of recognition system to detect the type of object over which augmentation has to be done. Recognition based AR technology has varied uses as well. One of them is to detect the object in front of the camera and provide information about the object on screen. This is something similar to the AR apps for travellers (location browsers). However, the difference lies in the fact that the AR location browsers usually do not know about the objects that they see while recognition based AR apps do

A second type of recognition-based AR application is to recognize the object and replace it with something else. The applications, once again are in abundance and possibilities endless. Some examples are given below:

  • Famous use of recognition AR tech is – translation of words on the fly. In this case, the app reads the words seen by the camera and tries to recognize the words using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology and then replaces the words on screen with their translated versions. This can be immensely useful for tourists when travelling to places where the locally prevalent language is not known.
  • Recognition based AR can also be used in education. Markers of more than two objects are kept together. The app detects the multiple markers and tries to simulate relationships among them. For example, one can use printed cards to represent atoms (in say chemistry class) and based on their mutual distance the AR app can show how a reaction would take place; and that would be just one use of AR in education.

Location based AR

It would be an injustice not to mention this category when talking about AR. Location based augmented reality is one of most widely implemented applications of AR. The strongest force behind this is the easy availability of smartphones and the features that they provide in terms of location detection. Location based AR is mostly used to help travellers in their journey.Location based AR in most cases is used for AR location browsers which help users discover interesting places within their current location. This method works by detecting the user’s location and orientation by reading data from the mobile’s GPS, digital compass and accelerometer and predicting where the user is looking; then adding related information on screen about the objects that can be seen from the camera.

Outlining AR

Though the human eye is known to be the best camera in the world, there are limitations. We cannot look at things for too long. We cannot see well in low light conditions and sure as anything, your eye cannot see in infrared. For such cases, special cameras were built. Augmented reality apps which perform outlining use such cameras. Once again, object recognition sits behind all that outlining AR can do. Let us begin with a life-saving implementation example.1 When driving a car on a road in foggy weather, the boundaries of the road may not be very visible to the human eye, leading to mishaps. Advanced cameras tuned specially to see the surroundings in low light conditions can be used to outline the road boundaries within which the car should stay. Such a system would prove very useful in avoiding accidents. With extra sensors capable of detecting objects around (e.g. by using ultrasound) the overall risk of hitting some living object can be minimized as well.

Superimposition based AR

Superimposition based AR provides an ‘alternate’ view of the object in concern, either by replacing the entire view with an augmented view of the object or by replacing a portion of the object view with an augmented view. In this case, once again, object recognition plays a vital role – logically, if the application does not know what it is looking at, it most certainly cannot replace the original view with an augmented one.

Depending on what type of view is required, the technology can be used for multiple purposes.

1. Doctors can use the technology to examine the patient from various angles in real-time. A live feed from an X-Ray machine can be used to superimpose the X-Ray view of the patient‘s body part on the real image to provide better understanding of the damage to bones. The application can be made to work via a head mounted display or special goggles. In other uses, the view can be shown on a screen where the video feed is taken from a real camera and X-Ray vision can be imposed on it.

2. In military applications, superimposition based AR can provide multiple views of a target object without showing extra information in text and blocking the vision of soldier from other important objects around. If you have been shooting enemies via your computer mouse, you’d already know how it would appear. Superimposition of infrared view or radioactive view of an object or an area can help save lives; or win wars!

3. Superimposition of ancient pictures over real ones can provide interesting views of historical places. Broken monuments can come back to life in all their original glory. Perhaps different eras complete with landscapes can be re-lived with AR.

These types use more multiple sensors and may produce the result in different forms. Such systems employ special faculties of dedicated devices working in parallel with processing systems with algorithms developed especially for being used in AR. As more input and output devices converge to more powerful and efficient systems, we would come across more types of AR in future.

How Augmented Reality is Controlled?

Augmented reality devices are often controlled either by touch a pad or voice commands. The touch pads are often somewhere on the device that is easily reachable. They work by sensing the pressure changes that occur when a user taps or swipes a specific spot. Voice commands work very similar to the way they do on our smartphones. A tiny microphone on the device will pick up your voice and then a microprocessor will interpret the commands. Voice commands, such as those on the Google Glass augmented reality device, are pre-programmed from a list of commands that you can use. On the Google Glass, nearly all of them start with “OK, Glass,” which alerts your glasses that a command is soon to follow. For example, “OK, Glass, take a picture” will send a command to the microprocessor to snap a photo of whatever you’re looking at.

Future of augmented reality

The Augmented Reality has come a long long way from a sci-fi (science-fiction) intention to a science-based realism. Till recently, the cost of AR were so significant that the designers could only imagine of working space on a design schemes that involved it – the things have been changed today, and AR is even now available on a mobile handset.

AR will develop side-by-side with the mobile technologies, and for example – more Augmented Reality applications that provide additional information will enhances what is already there. There are so many areas that AR can be involved and maybe the most important is computer games that also includes the mobile games. In the following areas AR can also be used and that includes:

  • Military e.g. used in military to provide locations of enemy positions
  • Medical Research e.g. about anatomy training for medical students
  • Education e.g. to explore the aspects of an ancient civilization as part of a history lesson
  • Marketing and Commercial e.g. can be used to promote a new product
  • Industry e.g. helping with prototyping (engineering)
  • Safety e.g. used as part of a road safety campaign
  • Art and Architecture e.g. as part of a mixed media artwork

Its destined that future will belong to the Augmented Reality, when it improves the task efficiency and the quality of the output of the user’s experience. This is the key challenge of the 21st century – to enter the science-fiction we have only watched on a TV and sci-fi movies.

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