What is Augmented Reality: Here’s what you need to know

The world we live in is becoming increasingly digital by the day. Every moment, we are surrounded by screens, devices, and interfaces that help us do what we need to do. However, most of the information that we seek remains confined to the 2-D screens. Where life happens in three dimensions, digital devices limit our exposure to the two-dimensional area. Here’s where augmented reality comes into play. Eliminating the physical-digital divide, AR blends the real world with the virtual, enhancing human’s capability to interact with their surroundings. the humankind to enhance their ability to explore areas that haven’t been heard or talked about. 

Keeping this as the core, this article will help you understand what augmented reality actually is and how it will help add a new dimension to your existing world.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is a powerful technology that superimposes data (visual images, graphs, audio or any other sensory information) onto the physical world, enhancing the end user’s experience. While the technology has existed for years, it is only now that people across the globe have started realising its potential. Industry reports suggest that the global AR market size would increase by 43.8% from 2021 to 2028. Furthermore, it is predicted that the adoption of smart glasses would witness a growth of 71.3% CAGR by 2025, being valued at $28.56 billion. (Source)

The Different Ways To Experience AR

AR-powered applications can either be web-based, mobile-based or through smart wearables.

1. MobileAR

MobileAR or application-based AR requires users to download an app to experience the technology. Considering the above, MobileAR can access all of the device features, offering a high fidelity interaction thereby enhancing the end-user experience. 

The best-known examples of MobileAR are filters on social media apps, and e-commerce apps, among other AR applications. One of the most popular apps using augmented reality is IKEA. Enabling users to point the camera at the location they wish to place the furniture, IKEA users can virtually place the product anf test how would the same look in real-time. This not only helps the users plan better but also enhances the buying experience.

MobileAR is also used for gaming with apps such as Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. These take advantage of the GPS and camera functions on a smartphone to allow players to interact with the games in their real-world environments.

2. WebAR

WebAR or web-based AR experience is one where users have the ease to access the AR content through the web browser. WebAR uses computer vision based on machine learning models to detect and identify objects in the real world. It also takes advantage of multi-dimensional spatial audio and multiple sensors such as gyroscopes and accelerometers to deliver a more immersive experience.
Unlike application-based AR that mandates downloading an app, webAR offers direct access either through a URL, a QR code or an NFC tag. Such ease of access has been the reason behind webAR reaching twice as many users as compared to an app-based AR experience.

3. AR Glasses

Extending the ease of usage and the end-user experience, experts have taken a step beyond the convention of AR interaction. Empowering users with a hands-free mode of interaction, augmented reality can be experienced through smart wearable devices. Ideally referred to as AR glasses or augmented reality glasses, these like the other two methods overlay digital content onto the real world, bridging the gap between the digital and the physical world. 

Equipped with sensors and smart trackers, AR glasses can effectively scan the surroundings and superimpose content, enhancing the end-user experience. Unlike the other two methods of experiencing AR (handheld), AR glasses can be worn (lightweight) and probably this is the reason why it is likely to have a mass adoption when it comes to experience augmented reality.

Industrial Applications of AR

AR has been making waves in all kinds of industries. While a few are using it to enhance their day to day operations, others are using it to improve their training methods, and/or customer service.

Here’s a quick glance at some of the industries it’s changing things up:

1. AR in Gaming

The first widespread use of AR technology was in gaming. When Pokémon Go hit the streets a few years ago, it felt like everyone was playing—and hunting for adorable pocket monsters on their phones. 

It’s not hard to see why: instead of having to sit down at a console and play Super Mario, now you could get up and move around in the real world while you played. It was groundbreaking, and since then gaming enthusiasts have been actively investing in the technology to design and build exciting AR-based gaming experiences.

2. AR in Automotive

AR has tremendous use cases in the automotive industry. Car manufacturers are actively using the technology for designing, prototyping, training and maintenance solutions. 

BMW, for instance, is among the first car manufacturers to embrace augmented reality for its factory floor. With AR glasses, technicians get real-time specs on any tool they use on the factory floor, allowing them to see if it meets the right specifications before it’s sent to assembly. (Link

It is seen that integrating augmented reality solutions in the line of day to day operations enhances productivity and at the same time, optimises the process flow, reducing the cost and time.

3. AR in Healthcare

Another exciting use case of Augmented Reality is in the healthcare industry, empowering the doctors. Wearing smart glasses, doctors have access to all of the medical information of the patient. In addition to this, the doctors can also have access to other health issues, know about the processes to treat diseases, etc. 

On the other hand, AR can also be used to train students on specific procedures, treatments and functions. With the help of AR glasses, students can view the anatomy of a human body, learn about the different functions, and interact, thereby learning in an immersive manner. This is, however, one of the many use cases of augmented reality in the healthcare field.

4. AR in Military

Applications of the technology aren’t limited to the enterprises but also extend to defence. In fact, the defence sector has been readily adopting new-age technologies to strengthen its ability to handle adverse situations and proactively respond on and off the battlefield. 

One of the most prominent use cases of augmented reality in the military is training. While the conventional training methods are limited in terms of battlefield exposure (given the risks associated), training through AR extends the possibilities, enabling soldiers to experience real-life situations without posing a threat to their life. 

Takeaway

Growing at an incredible pace, augmented reality technology is proven to be one of the most promising innovations. Be it augmented reality glasses or augmented reality as a technology, the AR market is booming. Experts predict that by the end of 2030, the global AR market would be worth $76 billion. 

If you ask us, we believe that this technology will not only be the future of technology but also the future of our entertainment industry and businesses. In addition to this, it won’t be wrong to say that it can also help in solving many societal and environmental problems.

It’s just a matter of time until AR will be a part of our everyday life.

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