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Introduction to Augmented Reality (AR)

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August 19, 2021
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Augmented reality gives users the chance to experience far away things, flex their imagination, and do dangerous stuff wherever they might be.

But before we dive deeper into this expanding field, here are a few quick things to remember:

  • People use AR technology for entertainment, education, training, marketing, and much more.  
  • Compatible devices include smartphones, tablets, and smart glasses. 

So what is augmented reality, exactly? It's a mashup of computer-generated effects and the real world. AR uses technology to attach digital elements to a physical environment for our viewing pleasure.

But wait, there's more. AR can combine other sensory stimulation, like sound, with our natural surroundings as well. 

Whatever you do, don't get AR confused with virtual reality (VR). The latter drops the user into an entirely digital world and requires highly specialized equipment. The former works with a more broad array of devices while combining real-world and digital components.

There is a world of possibilities with AR, and we are only scratching the surface right now. Huge growth potential exists in this field. 

What hardware do I need for AR?

Handheld devices like tablets and smartphones are one way to take advantage of AR. One major benefit is portability. Not to mention, the popularity of these devices means that most people own them and know how to use them. The downside is that small screens present a reduced view of the user's field of vision.

Because of their hands-free nature, wearable devices like smart glasses provide better portability and incorporate seamlessly with everyday life. But they come at a relatively high cost, considering their specialized functionality.

What is the purpose of AR?

Gaming and entertainment are two popular applications of AR technology.  Look at the Pokèmon Go mobile app that burst onto the scene about five years ago. With GPS integration, players could journey through a physical location as their onscreen avatar mirrored those movements. And by turning on their smartphone camera, people could see Pokèmon onscreen in front of them. 

There are a ton of educational applications for augmented reality as well. AR represents a safe and realistic way to practice dangerous procedures in medical school, for example. Other industries that involve hazardous tasks, like construction or manufacturing, can use AR to train new employees within a protected setting. 

Marketing is also viable for AR integrations. There are furniture store apps that allow you to drop a 3D model of a couch into your living room before deciding to purchase it. Other examples include sporting events where sponsors have their name and logo superimposed on a baseball diamond or football field.

Augmented reality is fascinating because it allows creators to build on or supplement what already exists in the real world. At the same time, users experience things they wouldn't usually have the chance to, whether the subject matter is informative or just for fun. With the way our society adopts new technologies, you can expect to see AR integrated more frequently in digital products.