Augmented reality (AR) is becoming a new trend in the digital world, so we can hardly meet a person who is not familiar with it, especially after Pokemon Go release. Moreover, this technology is in high demand not only for gaming but also for educational, commercial, healthcare, and construction purposes. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality is an enhanced version of the real physical world through the use of visual elements, sound or other sensory elements. In simple words, it’s the blending of interactive digital elements – like visual overlays, tactic sensors – into our real-world environments. Sometimes, the term augmented reality is used as a synonym for mixed reality. The technology itself involves designing layers of digital elements over real-world views for specific purposes – e.g., using overlays on phone screens to find directions from street views.

The commercial experience of augmented reality was first introduced in the entertainment and gaming industry. Subsequently, AR applications spanned commercial industries such as education, architecture, communications, medicine, and entertainment. Let’s say, you want to redesign your apartment but you’re not sure how to go about it. Due to special AR home decorating apps you are allowed to look through your phone camera and virtually change the colours of your walls or add new furniture at will.

What is  AR software?

Various kits for developing Augmented Reality are available on the market, so the choice depends on your needs. From the user’s point of view, ready-to-use applications and platforms that are offered for creating AR scenes can be divided into 2 functional categories:

  • Marker-based AR applications are based on image recognition. They use a camera of a portable device to detect specific patterns or markers, such as QR codes or images. Once the pattern is recognized, the application superimposes digital information on this marker.The most advanced AR software development kits, such Virtualist app, support recognition of 3D markers.
  • Location-based apps don’t need markers; instead, they use GPS, accelerometers or other detectors to establish your location and create AR objects.

How to develop AR software?

The implementation of Augmented Reality in consumer products requires consideration of the application design and the related constraints of the technology platform. If you want to create AR software from the very beginning, you should learn about three-dimensional modeling, game engines, know programming languages (e.g. C / C++ / C #) and how to create user interfaces for users in 3D. So it requires specific knowledge. That’s why for those who want to try AR-development for the first time, the best options are AR SDKs, which are easy to use and can be expanded with new features offered by developers. Before choosing the right toolkit, you must include many criteria:

  • the purpose of a project,
  • cost of implementation,
  • supported platforms,
  • 3D image recognition,
  • tracking support,
  • cloud storage,
  • geolocation.

What AR hardware is there?

Smartphones and tablets

Thanks to modern advances in computing power for mobile devices, most phones contain the necessary components for AR: cameras and sensors, such as an accelerometer, GPS, and a solid state compass. You can also use the tablet as an AR device. They come with similar hardware for smartphones and have larger screens, so the effects can be more exciting, although that also means they are less portable.

Laptops and desktop computers

These devices can also use Augmented Reality through a webcam. Due to the lack of portability and motion sensors, AR computer applications are a bit more limited, but you can add digital effects and animations to video calls.

Eyeglasses, contact lenses, displays

While headsets are not required for AR, there are some more specific devices on the market that directly adds AR visuals to your view. One of the most popular is Google Glass. Devices like this one include eyewear that employs cameras to intercept the real world view, and then project AR imagery through or reflect off the surfaces of the eyewear lens pieces.

How can AR be used for business?

Augmented Reality creates opportunities for businesses to reach their target audience in real-time. Businesses that apply AR to their products gain direct visual engagement with their audiences. This means customers can experience your products or services as they are meant to be. Currently, in the retail sector famous brands (such as IKEA, L’oreal and others) are using AR as a powerful tool to connect with their clients meaningfully and creatively. A special AR app enables Cheddar’s headline news networks to deliver live video feeds into a 3D space for users, who are able to place those anywhere in their surroundings. This new form of marketing is not only effective but it is also budget-friendly in comparison with traditional forms of marketing. Additionally, some companies are starting to build physical products with AR technology baked in. 

How AR can be used in education?

AR in education provides unlimited opportunities for teaching and learning. Instead of remaining passive recipients, they become active learners who can interact with their learning environment. The technology provides an absolutely real psychological experience and helps to get a true virtual experience that can be realized in real life: one of the Canadian technology companies turned the wall of the school gym into a ball game by adding an AR layer to it. Then the children can throw balls at the wall to hit the floating figures and, as a result, enjoy physical exercises.

How AR can be used for training?

AR allows companies to develop trainings that are appropriate for each employee, and allow them to develop competence and confidence in their role. CAE Healthcare was integrating Microsoft’s HoloLens into its training programs, allowing physicians to practice complex medical procedures in a 3D environment. By using multi-layered graphics, even the most complex processes and methods can be simplified for the trainees. If it’s not enough, have a look at this example. Based on decades of perceptual-motor research in psychology, researchers at the Aviation Research Laboratory used AR in the form of a flight path in the sky to teach participants how to land an airplane using a flight simulator. 

What are AR games?

An augmented reality game often superimposes a precreated environment on top of a user’s actual environment. Traditional gaming systems like Xbox or PlayStation require special equipment while AR offers gamers mobility and makes every space a battlefield or playground. The game itself can be as simple as a game of virtual checkers played on a table. Probably, one of the most famous examples of AR is the mobile app Pokemon Go, which was released in 2016 and quickly became an inescapable sensation. In that game, players locate and capture Pokemon characters that pop up in the real world—on the street, in a cafe or your kitchen.

In general, the 2010s witnessed huge strides in AR, that’s why by 2021, experts predict that we will see major growth in this industry with gaming companies focusing most of their budget and energies exactly on AR-based products. 

Jan Filipowiak

Jan Filipowiak

Jan is the CEO of Pixel Legend. He helps customers and looks after the brand.