Augmented Reality – How it Works
Augmented reality combines digital technology with the knowledge of the physical environment to create an experience in which information about an object is overlaid on digital data. Augmented reality has the potential to revolutionize how people live their lives. It provides richer, more engaging experiences than ever before. Users experience reality through their eyes, ears, and brain. This way of viewing the world around them creates a new reality where the physical world and its surroundings are extensions of what they are experiencing. In some ways, augmented reality can even produce a parallel reality for the mind – where things that don’t exist in our physical reality now become important parts of our consciousness.
Augmented reality works with all the three major senses. By capturing the information of a scene with the appropriate sensors, computers interpret the images and convert it into digital information to provide rich, interactivity. The objects in the virtual environment are enhanced by computer generated perceptual data, sometimes over multiple sensory channels, such as visual, audio, haptic, tactile and optical. The result is a digital “augmented reality” map that produces an actual physical experience. Think of it like an advanced, web-based GPS system that can steer your car in true-to-life street traffic.
How does augmented reality work? We’re not talking about goggles here. In fact, most digital augmented reality systems are glasses-free and use low-resolution displays for a comfortable user experience. In some cases, the user is unaware of the fact that the display is not real, but rather a digital replica of the real thing. Think of Google Glass (now available for a few select models) or the soon-to-be-available MagicYahoo! be viewed. This content can be highly complex with many different types of content, such as text, photos, videos, 3D objects, etc. It can also be basic, such as a calendar or the time. In addition, users should be able to interact with the digital information on a one-to-one basis, such as through speech recognition or typing their names or addresses.
Augmented reality works on the principle of combining digital information with the real world. How? By taking digital information and transforming it (typically by compressing it into a highly dense format, such as XML) into a form that is real to the touch, feel and sight. When you type an email address on your keyboard or turn on your GPS, you are seeing information literally “grabbing” your hand and bringing it to life. This is similar to the way in which you can virtually touch a live person, place, or object.
The first step to take if you want to start creating holographic reality is to understand how this new medium works. Think of augmented reality as browsing the web, but in 3-D. For example, when you visit a website using glasses-and-vr glasses, you are essentially looking around a virtual environment, which has been “hologicated” using computer technology. Similarly, information can be captured and projected onto the user’s eye. Information such as maps, shopping bags, menus, restaurants, and so on are easily available to you when you have these virtual reality glasses on.
Now imagine that you are walking down the street, and you see a sign on a building with the name and contact details of a local business. If you are wearing the glasses, you will be able to read the sign and contact the business. Likewise, if you were sitting at your desk and saw some critical information on your computer screen, you may be able to interact with it in real-time, either by clicking on the information, touching it, or basically tapping it like you would with a physical pen.
Phones around your head provide information through your sense of smell, touch, or hearing. This is just one application of holographic technologies, but there are many others, from computer vision to surround-view displays to the internet. Imagine the possibilities.
Augmented reality is not a new idea. It was first applied in entertainment technology back in the 1970s. Video games and televisions began to use this idea of a moving image around you in order to provide more entertainment for consumers. Since then, it has moved into the realm of smart phones and computers, and now it has reached the mainstream.
How does holographic information get around? The answer is very simple. Instead of a screen, you are seeing a computer-generated image of whatever is in front of you. With the right camera, you can capture this information and project it into any space around you.
In fact, that is not the half of it. With the right data, your hologram will be able to “see” around obstacles or other barriers as if those were real. It will react the same way it would if it was real. You will be able to use that information to navigate through the world. You will guide your real world friends, or figures, with directions and options that they would never have thought of.
The applications for holographic technologies are endless. It is used in many industries, from education to manufacturing, and everything in between. Real time holographic information could also improve things such as disaster response, military operations, and even patient care.
When you think about how useful holographic displays are, it’s almost amazing that such a tiny device has managed to revolutionize the way we view the world. Just think about having your own 3D holographic projection solution in your home. You could have a bar at your house that plays videos of your favorite sports team, or movies that you’ve been waiting to watch, on a big screen TV. Your hologram could be projected onto any surface around you, so that wherever you go, you can see the screen. You could walk into any room and see the hologram right there.
There are tons of possibilities that holographic technology holds. But for now, there are plenty of ways that augmented reality is helping people in their daily lives. The holograms may even end up becoming a staple of our future technological society. With all of the wonderful applications that holographic technologies holds, it’s pretty exciting to think about what’s next!