4 Ways Augmented Reality Is Changing the World

Augmented Reality (AR) — granted, the word might sound like a technophile’s jargon. But talk about its applications!

In an everyday life scenario, it is Pikachu on the loose in the famous videogame, “Pokémon Go”. What’s more, those fun Snapchat filters that you use (yes, those flower crowns, babyface, dog’s dangling tongue, and whatnot) are the spectacle of AR as well.

Beyond fun and games, however, this emerging technology has far-reaching applications and is all set to bring a paradigm shift in today’s world.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

In simple terms, AR involves overlaying computer-generated sensory information (auditory and visual commonly) into physical reality.

By blending digital content in the physical world, we tap into mixed reality: an enhanced version of our actual three-dimensional space.

Head-Mounted Display (HMD), Augmented Reality glasses, handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets, and computer monitors act as some of the display devices for Augmented Reality.

Utilizing a system of cameras and time-of-flight 3D depth sensors, Augmented Reality maps your environment and builds its model using hardware sensors and specialized software.

Then, Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) occurs, where, in addition to mapping, the system tracks your position in relation to your visual field to successfully overlay sensory information.

With that said, let’s not confuse Augmented Reality with Virtual Reality. While Virtual Reality cuts you off from the actual world and takes you into an artificial 3D sensory environment, AR just adds virtual content into the actual environment, leaving you free to see the real world.

Being currently explored by tech giants — such as Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon — the market of AR is worth more than $15 billion at present and is projected to grow up to $25 billion by 2024 according to Lumus.

What is it that is driving the world crazy about AR? Let’s get straight into it.

1. A Glimpse Into the AR-Powered Modern Warfare

When we think of a typical military mission briefing, we envision a commander, encircled by a group of soldiers, pointing at a giant map laid out on a table.

However, developers at the Airbus Defence and Space Unit take a giant leap into the future with their Holographic Tactical Sandbox. With this innovative military preparation tool, military personnel can plan and rehearse the operations like never before.

Upon wearing a specialized Augmented Reality helmet, the operator sees a 3D holographic map. What this means is that instead of comprehending a complex 2D map, the operator could dedicate more energy towards value-added tasks.

Apart from shortening the setup time and allowing preparations on short notice, higher interactivity levels are another added benefit of this futuristic military tool.

This makes pinch-zooming an area of interest, highlighting it with markers, or drawing on the 3D satellite imagery a walk in the park.

The possibilities of enhancing the military sector with AR are extraordinary.

Recently, US Army signed a $480 million contract with Microsoft, allowing them to use personalized HoloLens 2 for training and combat purposes.

Featuring an Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), this military version of HoloLens is set to make soldiers lethal machines.

By using advanced sensors to overlay digital elements in the physical environment, AR will be amplifying the awareness of the soldiers and will allow them to make precise decisions in a shorter time span.

AR-supported training sessions could mean that the soldiers could have an immersive experience by encountering a realistic war-like atmosphere instead of merely firing 2D cardboard models.

On the battlefield, the visor could indicate the positions of hidden enemies, show vulnerability level, and detect the faintest of movements.

2. Fitting Rooms Might Become a Thing of the Past

The prevalence of e-commerce stores has made the shopping experience quite convenient for all of us.

Things once exclusively found at brick-and-mortar stores can now be delivered to our doorsteps with just one click.

With that said, there are a few products that customers like me prefer a try-before-you-buy experience for, posing a challenge for the e-commerce market.

That’s where Augmented Reality steps in.

Virtual Fitting Technology, which works on the principles of mixed reality, enables you to try the products virtually before purchasing.

What that means is that if you were once hazy about how that hoodie would look like on you, you would now virtually be able to see how it fits on your body.

Virtual try-on watches are another application of virtual fitting technology.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The user wears a wristband with pattern of markers.
  2. Using Augmented Reality app, the band is scanned.
  3. The markers are processed and the respective camera’s location
  4. The virtual watch is rendered onto marker’s location.

Similarly, the technology incorporates deep learning technology and extends to other applications such as try-on shoes, try-on glasses, surgical masks, hats, and clothing items.

The applications of Augmented Reality in the shopping and retail industry don’t just keep it to clothing accessories. In fact, IKEA took advantage of this technology by letting its potential customers try the furniture in their home settings and see if it looks good.

Expected to grow up to USD 10 billion by 2027, virtual fitting technology still is in the preliminary stages and poses some design challenges, but it is only getting better than the present.

3. Forget About F-16’s Heads-Up Display

If you ever played one of those car racing games, you would recall the multiple camera display options.

Amongst those, the Heads-up display was the one where you could see the steering wheel before the windshield.

On the other hand, the windshield displayed a bunch of vitals such as speed, RPM, damage level, as well as locations of other vehicles with respect to yours, checkpoint markers, timer, and distance covered.

AR brings those Heads-up Displays (HUDs) to your actual car!

Other than the essentials such as speed, RPM, and Engine Temperature, an AR-supported heads-up display takes things up a notch by providing meaningful insight into what goes beyond the windshield as well.

Take for example pedestrians.

The AR system could keep a track of all the pedestrians in the vicinity and alert you of the ones coming in your direction. The driving lane would stay in a particular color to mark your safety and would change the color to alert you soon as you deviate.

Other ways the AR-supported driving experience could come into effect are by interacting with the environment and indicating points of interest like gas stations and wi-fi availability; layering operating times over stores on the way; and providing weather updates.

If it’s too sunny out there, it could magically make it overcast, or even help you see when it’s dark. Cool, right?

4. Smart Training and Super-Effective Employment

More and more organizations are starting to believe that work from home leads to enhanced employee productivity and reduced attrition.

Due to these reasons as well as due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teleworking has increased dramatically in recent times. In the last five years, there has been a 44% increase in remote working.

That, however, leaves a challenge in maintaining the efficiencies in certain professions. Mixed Reality can be of great help in overcoming the limitations in these scenarios.

For instance, in the case of IT computer repair, the consumers could either be having instructions as they point their phone cameras up against the inoperative computer, or they could use an Augmented Reality headset to get directions in their field of view.

In another case, one could troubleshoot a car for identifying problems by simply following the on-screen directions around labeled internal components.

Mechanics at GE Aviation make use of Google’s AR headset, which works via specialized AR software — Skylight — to get around various crucial elements.

Skylight, for example, indicates it on the visor when workers need to use a torque wrench. Not only that, this wi-fi-enabled torque wrench gives feedback to the Skylight server once the torque is applied, which in turn tells the mechanics if a crucial B-nut is securely tightened before moving on to the next part.

In the health sector, AccuVein comes up with an AR scanner that helps doctors and nurses locate veins, valves, and bifurcations upon having projected over the patient’s skin. Similarly, many sports academies are now utilizing AR to make training experiences more effective and sensitive to details.

What Does the Future Hold?

With the development of technologies such as Bionic Lenses, HUDs, and even Holograms, it won’t be a stretch to say that Augmented Reality technology is bringing sci-fi concepts to reality.

Back in 2016, Samsung patented Smart Contact Lens which, once completed, would allow you to take photos in your visual field by just blinking your eye. Since the lens would be linked with the smartphone, the photograph would be saved in it for you to access later.

EyeTap is another concept in the pipeline wherein a user wears a specialized frame, containing a camera, before the eye. This technology, in addition to capturing and recording, would be capable of superimposing digital imagery on the actual scene.

Experts believe that it would take around 5 more years for AR to harness its full potential. And in the next 10 to 15 years, we would probably be spectating a world painted in data with Augmented Reality.

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