What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality is the technology that expands our physical world by adding layers of information onto it. It is an interactive experience in which real world objects are augmented with computer generated visual information such as effects like audio, videos, graphics to create stunning user experience. A view of real-world environment is mixed with computer generated world which makes if more realistic and changing perception of reality.
If you have used apps like Pokemon Go, Google SkyMap or IKEA App, you already witnessed augmented reality in action.
1992: Louis Rosenberg developed Virtual Fixtures.
Virtual Fixtures used two real physical robots, controlled by a full upper-body exoskeleton worn by the user. To create the immersive experience for the user, a unique optics configuration was employed that involved a pair of binocular magnifiers aligned so that the user’s view of the robot arms were brought forward so as to appear registered in the exact location of the user’s real physical arms. The system also employed computer-generated virtual overlays in the form of simulated physical barriers, fields, and guides, designed to assist in the user while performing real physical tasks.
2008: Wikitude launched AR Travel Guide.
2009: ARToolkit was ported to Adobe Flash, bringing augmented reality to the web browser
2013: Google announced augmented reality glasses. The glasses reach the Internet through Bluetooth, which connects to the wireless service on a user’s cellphone.
2015: Microsoft announced Windows Holographic and the HoloLens augmented reality headset. The headset utilizes various sensors and a processing unit to blend high definition “holograms” with the real world.
2017: Apple released the ARKit API tool for developers working on virtual reality and augmented reality applications. The ARKit Tool is designed to accurately map the surrounding using SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). Moreover, to create augmented reality experiences users don’t need any external equipment.
2018: Google released ARCore. ARCore uses three key technologies to integrate virtual content with the real world as seen through your phone’s camera:
- Motion tracking.
- Environmental understanding.
- Light estimation.
Types of Augmented Reality
AR applications can be split into two categories: marker-based or marker-less
Markers are unique patterns that cameras can easily recognize and process. When markers are scanned and recognized, it creates an Augmented reality experience based on marker. It can show text, render 3D Objects, or show animations based on marker processed. User can simulate different AR experience on different markers. User can move camera to adjust viewing angle or zoom without distorting or ending AR view.
This type of AR is quite different from marker-based AR. It does not require a marker or pattern to generate AR experience. Instead it relies on devices sensors such as location and orientation sensors and camera to produce real-time AR experience.
It processes data from sensor inputs and builds a 3D space in a process known as Simultaneous Localization and Mapping – or SLAM for short. SLAM places content directly into your view of the world and sync it to the environment.
AR can aid in visualizing real world objects such as building. A 3D building can be build and superimposed into real world to simulate its view even before constructions. User can visualize 3D experience of structures on 2D designs. Users can experience building’s every aspect in detail from both exterior and interior allowing them to see design and colors of wall, interior decorations and spaces.
AR can help enhancing product previews such as checking dimensions of product. User can select product from catalog and place it in real world view to visualize its various aspects like area which it occupies and how it feels with existing surroundings. For example, when purchasing furniture, user can test different type of furniture and visualize its size, color and theme in room prior purchasing it.
A number of Games are already popular in gaming field which uses AR for more realistic experience. It includes games such as AR air hockey, Titans of Space, collaborative combat against virtual enemies, and AR-enhanced pool table games. Pokémon Go is one more game that use AR and user’s current location to provide more realistic gaming experience.
AR can be used to bring more effectiveness to navigation. Information can be displayed in real world to provide more accurate and clear way as well as to alert users of potential hazards in their way. For example, AR can enhance map navigation by scaling maps to real word scale and showing directions in 3D view which can prove more detailed and realistic.
AR technology is also used by retailers such as IKEA and Lenskart. These retailers offer apps that allow consumers to view their products in their home prior to purchasing anything. Lenskart uses your camera to let you try out glasses online.
Other areas where Augmented Reality can prove useful includes Medical, Training, Military, Tourism, Education etc.
Popular Tools and SDKs developing AR applications
In 2017, Apple released ARKit for Developing Augmented Reality apps. It enables developers to create unparalleled experiences for compatible iPhone and iPad devices. Features includes
· SLAM tracking (simultaneous localization and mapping) and sensor fusion
· Ambient lighting estimation
· Scale estimations
· Vertical and horizontal plane estimation with basic boundaries
· Stable and fast motion tracking
ARCore is an augmented reality SDK by Google. Similar to ARKit, it enables developers to get AR apps up and running on compatible Google smartphones and tablets. it also supports iOS-enabled devices and gives developers access to users across both platforms. Following are the key features supported by ARCore,
· Motion tracking.
· Environmental understanding.
· Light estimation.
Vuforia is one of the best platforms for augmented reality development. It is cross-platform which means you can develop for both android and iOS. It Offers some best features like Text Recognition, video playback, VuMarks, Local and Cloud recognition, This SDK is available for free, but with Vuforia watermarks and limited functionality. Additional functionalities that brings full potential of this SDK are available under commercial licenses.
Ar.js is an Augmented Reality Library for the web. It is marker-based AR library. It is built using artoolkit. artoolkit is a software with years of experience doing augmented reality. It works on almost all web browsers with WebGl and WebRTC. Its browser-based AR library so it works on any platform like android, iOS, Windows.