Well, ever since a fascinated world saw Princess Leia beam a flickering blue hologram of herself in the famous 1977 Star Wars scene, the idea of holograms has fired the imagination of techies and trekkies alike. If you had grown up in that time you would have thought by now that Virtual Reality would be an integral part of our lives. That hasn’t exactly panned out. The headsets are not that cool, that apps are uninspiring and some people have been known to get very stomach sick when using them. On the other hand, augmented reality or AR, which is somewhat similar to VR seems to have caught on making it a more usable and viable technology in our lives right now.
Not just because you’ve probably faced swapped with your dad or caught a Pokémon at your desk or because you heard Mark Zuckerberg say it’s a priority for Facebook, but because our technology is powerful enough now to support it. The AR moment is here because you already carry an AR-compatible device around with you everyday. Local tech expert Kevin Andrews is with us this morning to discuss the possibilities of this exciting new technology.
What is AR or Augmented Reality is and how does it work?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a visual augmentation of the environment, either using a heads up display projected in front of your eyes or a live digital overlay on a screen. Augmented Reality bridges the virtual world and the real world by superimposing digital contexts into the real context. Usually, elements are augmented by a computer-generated sensory input such as video, graphics, sound or GPS data. One major advantage of this type of technology is that information about the real world can now be interactive and digitally manipulable.
How does this technology work? What would be some practical applications for it?
With augmented reality, the user sees the real world but with superimposed digital contexts using devices such as a smartphone or wearable device which contains software that recognizes an image and helps displays this onto an object. In essence, augmented reality enhances the real world with artificial images, videos or sound.
Now, the apps that are on your phone that are designed to use this technology can use one of two approaches to augment your world: either using a marker-based or location-based approach.
Marker-based approach involves software which recognizes a particular pattern, such as a barcode, symbol, a desk or floor when a camera is pointing at it. An overlaying digital image or video is then imposed onto your screen when the camera is pointing at it.
Location-based applications use GPS to record a position in the world and provide data that is relevant to that location. For example, it can be as easy as pointing your mobile phone toward a map in a book and having the names of all the land masses superimposed on your phone, or finding your way around a city by getting live updates of street and store names, traffic conditions, and weather or providing information on your screen while you point the camera at the constellations when looking up at the stars at night.
You say AR can be available on our mobile phones? We don’t need a headset or glasses?
Headsets and glasses are available but right now our phones are very powerful computers and with the recent release of Apple’s iPhone 8 and upcoming iPhone 10, along with many of the high-end Android devices we now have powerful mobile hardware that can now do this.
The software, the second part, which is all of the apps that would be made for this can take advantage of the hardware to provide a very exciting and compelling AR experience. Obviously, having a pair of glasses or some type of natural fitting device over your eyes would be more convenient than holding up your phone all the time.
But we are not quite there yet to have something as small as a thin pair of glasses be practical for the general public.