When we talk about augmented Reality, we are talking about a technology that allows, through particular digital tools, to interact with the external environment. Care must be taken not to confuse augmented Reality with Virtual Reality.
Augmented Reality exploits elements already present in the environment and interacts with the surrounding environment to obtain a more in-depth and specific knowledge of certain features.
Virtual Reality, on the other hand, uses digital technologies to recreate a completely artificial environment.
Augmented Reality, therefore, makes it possible to increase and improve – through human-technology interaction – a series of actions that are regularly carried out every day. It must be emphasized that augmented Reality guarantees an enrichment of perceptions thanks to digital processing, i.e., software, which allows information to be obtained that cannot otherwise be obtained if only the classic five senses are used. Depending on the type of technology used, it will be possible to improve knowledge through a more accurate and detailed view of the environment, increase the perceptions of sounds, or even remotely control technological instruments such as smartphones, tablets, or others.
A Bit Of History
Like all technological innovations, augmented Reality was born in specific research areas, particularly medicine, and within military applications. A classic example of augmented Reality well known also thanks to the numerous war or science fiction films and series is given by the so-called HUDs, i.e., the Head-Up Displays, which allow aircraft pilots to obtain a series of important additional information, such as distances. from specific points, the inclination of the plane and much more.
Augmented Reality went public in 2009. The first public-use software that took advantage of augmented reality technologies was Layar. Layar is a specific browser for mobile devices that allows a series of advanced searches. To work, the mobile device on which it is installed must have a camera and a GPS with a compass and an accelerometer. These tools allow the user to obtain information on any points of interest located in the vicinity of the area in which they are located. Furthermore, a fundamental element, it allows you to identify and reach them, pointing the phone’s camera in the direction you want to go. The various specific icons of the geo-localized points you intend to go to will appear on display, thus allowing them to be easily reached.
In recent years, the development of technologies applied to smartphones and tablets has made it possible to create specific apps, especially for Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone devices, for the increasingly common use of augmented reality technologies. Through the apps, it is possible to find information to reach different locations, find your car more efficiently in large parking lots, or play with fictional and fantastic characters hiding around the city.
The Tools Of Augmented Reality: Not Just Google Glass
When we talk about Augmented Reality, the first example that is often considered is Google Glass. Although this device was probably the most advertised and aroused the most significant interest even from the general public, it represents only one of the technologies capable of offering augmented reality experiences to the general public.
However, it should be specified that many of the augmented reality technologies are still on an experimental basis or are closed projects, i.e., evolved in different directions than those hypothesized at the beginning. Google Glass themselves, after a series of experiments, did not take off as it should, and the augmented reality project was reduced to professional use only.
Windows has also carried out an augmented reality project to improve the information viewed through a particular display. Microsoft’s HoloLens project is based on the reconstruction of three-dimensional images, i.e., holograms.
A viewer-created collaboration with NASA characterizes the HoloLens: it is a project open to all developers who want to improve the project’s potential through specific APIs.
Sony has instead focused on an augmented reality device very similar to that of Google, proposing the Smart Eyeglass. Although with a less basic design than those of Google, these are glasses that nevertheless have very similar functionality. With them, it is, therefore, possible to connect via WiFi and Bluetooth to mobile devices and obtain detailed information on the surrounding environment, i.e., on the presence of clubs, restaurants, hotels, streets, and much more.
But augmented reality projects are not limited to the possibility of obtaining information on roads that allow you to reach this or that place or restaurant. It will be possible to get translations in real-time, view statistics and data relating to sporting or cultural events, or interact with video games that use augmented Reality to position characters in different areas of the house or the city.
In addition to glasses, there are contact lenses among the devices that will improve the display of various images by increasing a series of information. This is a project still under development which, after a first hypothesis at the beginning of the 2000s, saw a series of prototypes in the years 2010-2011. Some special contact lenses for augmented Reality are being designed by researchers and computer scientists in the US military.
Still, in the field of experiments, some displays project directly onto the retina allowing a more accurate collection of images with high resolution and contrast. This type of augmented Reality is designed to enhance the sight of the visually impaired or other people with vision problems. It is a project whose success may depend on the possibility of improving the lives of a large number of people suffering from eye diseases, such as maculopathies or glaucoma.
Two Types Of Augmented Reality
It must be specified that when we talk about Augmented Reality, we can mean two different technologies. The first, the one that is having more and more success, that is, it is also being conveyed to the general public, communication and marketing, is the one that is experienced through mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets equipped with a camera, GPS, compass, and accelerometer can be used to view various data and information relating to the area viewed through the camera lens. In this way, an overlap is created between the physical elements present in the environment and the digital ones proposed by the device.
Another type of augmented Reality is that which is used through computer processing. In this case, augmented reality consists of specific software capable of recognizing black and white drawings processed through particular markers to create images, films, and other multimedia content. This type of augmented Reality was used successfully in England in 2014 for a Pepsi Max commercial. A bus stop allowed those sitting on the benches to be inserted into a world where tigers, ufos, giant octopuses, and much more. They still found themselves haunting their surroundings.
Augmented Reality And Artificial Intelligence
When we talk about Augmented Reality, we must necessarily also speak about artificial intelligence. In addition to proposing an ever more significant interaction between man and machine, the first makes more and more use of tools that have Artificial Intelligence, making these two forms of technology increasingly connected.
The famous American economist Michael Porter has highlighted how these two forms of technology are destined to quickly become standard in everyone’s life, both work and private life. On the one hand, however, Artificial Intelligence and Neural Networks already present many applications in many fields, from medical to equity to robotics. Augmented Reality is still in the embryonic phase of experiments.
Entrepreneur Dhiraj Mukherjee is considered one of the most influential in the technology sector. Last year highlighted how Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality will be critical elements shortly.
Putting aside apocalyptic and science fiction scenarios in which machines take control of man, Dhiraj Mukherjee highlights how Artificial Intelligence can, on the contrary, present itself as a fundamental tool for increasing human knowledge. Together with Augmented Reality, it will make it possible to make a large number of discoveries relating not only to the dynamics of physics but also of mathematics, for the realization of ever new applications, which at the moment can hardly be imagined.