What is augmented reality?
What is augmented reality? How does it work? Let’s see it all here!
Augmented reality (AR) literally means “augment your reality,” in short, the real world with additional layers of digital information projected into it.
The RA combines the physical world with an overlay of computer-generated virtual elements. These 2D or 3D virtual contents are projected into reality in the field of vision of people (via the camera of a smartphone or smart glasses), with the goal of ensuring that the physical and virtual world recognizes and interacts with each other through computer vision and machine learning.
This is also why RA is technically a huge challenge: the virtual and real world must coexist perfectly, and digital information must recognize the real world, with its obstacles, natural objects, buildings, or gestures of people, faces, etc. interactions with him, all in real time, which remains quite complicated for the moment. Most of the time, AR content is also sensitive to user input.
What are the differences between augmented reality and virtual reality?
If both offer new ways to immerse people and improve their vision using technology, they do so in really different ways. While virtual reality completely replaces what people see and experience, augmented reality adds to it. Obviously, the experiments, the technologies and the devices used are quite different.
In VR, you are completely immersed in an entirely virtual world. The RA allows you to continue to experience the real world but enrich it with personalized content.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of an alternative world that completely plunges the viewer into an artificial environment, offering a synthetic experience without any sense of the real world. This requires specific sensory equipment, helmets and gloves, and interactions within this alternative reality are digital and do not respond to the real world (except for the hand tracking system that recognizes your hands and their movements in this alternative world).
Augmented reality (AR), as we said earlier, is based on a real world view with virtual images projected (usually through the camera of a mobile phone). The real world remains at the centre of the experience and is enriched with virtual elements that generally interact with it.
If today, VR gathers probably the best known immersive experiences, with many experiences available in video games, entertainment (like theme park and escape game) or is used for training and education in different industries, no doubt that augmented reality will completely flood the market in the future.
The RA will be like an everyday tool that you can use for many different things, in the same way that we use our smartphones today. VR is most useful when you really need a deep sense of immersion, as is the case for some video games, to tell stories or even to teach.
The adoption of AR will be less painful (because RV is also known to be physically disconcerting, causing headaches, dizziness, nausea or loss of reality…) and the possibilities of RA with these interactions between the real and virtual worlds will open a whole new way of seeing and evolving the world.
It is always possible to see its environment in AR, which is not possible with RV. This is one of the crucial differences that makes AR likely to be more social and human, while VR will remain primarily individual.
With augmented reality, discover a new way to interact with the world
With augmented reality, we will find endless ways to interact and improve the real world. The main advantage of AR experiences is that the content is interactive and personalized, as each person can interact freely with the content on their screen.
It opens up a whole new range of creative content, erasing all the boundaries of the physical world. This is how Google recently revived the dinosaurs on the user’s screen by offering high-end 3D models that everyone can display at home.
For now, the most famous RA experiences are designed for smartphones, because everyone is used to Snapchat and Instagram filters to improve selfies and create images enriched with everyday moments. This spontaneous adoption of AR filters on social networks shows that people are looking for immersive interactions with an augmented view of the real world.
As a concrete example in the sales field, the Ikea app allows you to place your future sofa in your living room, in RA, to see if it adapts to your environment and fits with your colorful carpet.
Everyone also heard about Pokemon Go, Niantic’s mobile game downloaded 750 million times. The app, based on maps and GPS location, has created the world’s largest Pokémon hunts, allowing people to catch Pokémon in the streets, gardens and monuments around the world. Pokemon Go shows that it only takes a good experience to accelerate mainstream adoption.
For consumer adoption, RA will need to be more than just a gadget and really improve people’s lives. Topics related to privacy and ethics should also be addressed. That being said, it could be a revolution as the mouse was for the computer or smartphones today.
2020-2025: AR market acceleration with connected glasses
As Tim Cook (Apple CEO) once said, “Augmented reality will change everything.” For the moment, the AR still has many challenges to overcome (improvement of occlusion, process of creation of 3D content and quality of assets, connectivity, computing power of the device, miniaturization of hardware components, etc.) and while mobile AR is the first step and will bring together most augmented reality experiences in recent years, augmented reality on smart glasses will completely change the user experience.
With the connected glasses, users will have access to hands-free experiences, with content displayed directly in front of their eyes and an entire augmented view of the real world.
RA will play a very important role in the evolution of human/computer interaction. Today, we interact with a small screen in our pocket, to get all the information we need, but very often it would be more natural and intuitive to display this information in front of us, or above a real object. For example, with AR glasses, we could directly obtain the navigation information displayed at the next intersection when searching for a particular location.
In 5 years, it will be a complete mass market, with billions of AR-compatible devices and a whole new way of looking at the world and interacting with digital interfaces, and that’s why brands need to consider these technologies now.
The more reliable the technologies around RA, the more artists, designers and brands will face opportunities and challenges to help consumers dream.
One of the biggest challenges for augmented reality creators will be to successfully play with the current space in order to create stunning user experiences.