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21
Nov 2016
Mon, 21 Nov 2016

Augmented Reality

Article by Marco Tapia
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Video games have been entertaining us for nearly 30 years, ever since Pong and Space Invaders was introduced in our local arcades, but did you know that Augmented Reality will be the next big thing and it’s not just child’s play!

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) most often are mentioned in the same breath, but there are significant differences between the two technologies, even though they also share many similar features.

Computer graphics have become very sophisticated since then, and are pushing the barriers of photorealism. Now, researchers and engineers are pulling graphics out of your television screen or computer display and integrating them into real-world environments. This new technology, called augmented reality, blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell (3).

VR typically immerses the user in a virtual world via a headset that isolates you from the real world.  AR, on the other hand, inserts virtual objects and information into the real world.

Everyone from tourists, surgeons and soldiers to someone looking for the closest subway  can now benefit from the ability to place computer-generated graphics in their field of vision.  But it doesn’t stop there!

It’s already being used is various applications as it turns the environment around you into a digital interface by placing virtual objects in the real world, in real-time. Augmented Reality can be seen through a wide variety of experiences (1).  Take a look at Magic Leap which will explain how a new dimension of human experience can be created and how the environment around you interacts with a digital interface. Click here.

The Devices

 

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Augmented Reality can be used on all screens and connected devices.

Through mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, Augmented Reality acts like a magic window; through the viewer you can see holograms and manipulate 3D models. Hundreds of Augmented Reality apps are available on iPhone, iPad, and Android.

On PC and connected TV players, Augmented Reality works through a webcam and relayed through the screen. This can be quite cumbersome when you have to manipulate a tracker in front of your screen.

On head mounted displays, glasses, and special contact lenses, Augmented Reality becomes a part of your entire field of view, making for more life-like Augmented Reality experiences (4).

Augmented Reality in Business

James Kovach, senior vice president of business development for AR company CrowdOptic, said many of their clients in the healthcare and athletic industries are already taking advantage of augmented reality in order to bring important data – like a doctor monitoring patient’s blood pressure or a football coach analysing a player’s acceleration – into one, easy to access space.

“AR has the same value proposition across the entire spectrum,” Kovach said. “An individual is looking at something through smart glasses, and AR compiles contextual information to assist that person, whether it’s [a physician] treating a patient or you’re in an office and trying to learn something (1).”

AR will have countless applications in the business world. Here are just a few to explore:

Education- AR applications can complement a standard curriculum. Text, graphics, video and audio can be superimposed into a student’s real time environment. Imagine children learning by having an object of discussion before them. Students can participate interactively with computer generated simulations of historical events, exploring and learning details of each significant area of the event site just to name a few.

Marketing- AR is increasing in the field of marketing. For e.g. clothing, accessory, makeup and furniture companies, AR presents a new way to show customers what it will be like to use their products.

Spatial Immersion- Augmented reality applications, running on handheld devices or virtual reality headsets, can also digitalise human presence in space and provide a computer generated model of them, in a virtual space where they can interact and perform various actions.

Translation- AR systems can interpret foreign text on signs and menus and, in a user’s augmented view, re-display the text in the user’s language. Spoken words of a foreign language can be translated and displayed in a user’s view as printed subtitles. Foreign business meetings will be easier to understand in real-time and this will open even further opportunities to business globally.

Industrial Design- AR can help industrial designers experience a product’s design and operation before completion.

Construction/Architecture- AR can be used to showcase new development over the existing space as a pre-application. It can also include underground cables, piping, and other existing or newly proposed ideas (2).

Augmented reality is exciting new technology, and there are probably ways to use it that will emerge in the coming years that we can’t yet even imagine. However, augmented reality may only be the beginning; full virtual reality (VR) devices like Oculus Rift have emerged and is cultivating user bases of their own, and it’s only a matter of time before it develops on its own path.

Marco Tapia is Managing Director of PicNet. PicNet is an AmCham member specialising in information technology support, consulting and software development.

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