What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality technology attempts to add relevant information and enhanced meaning to actual physical objects and places. Where virtual reality simply creates a simulated reality, augmented reality actually begins with a real, physical space or object and uses technology to add additional data in order to help the viewers understand their subject better.
An example of this is the marking of the first down line and line of scrimmage on your television screen during a live football event. Although the thick yellow and blue lines are not actually present on the football field, the producers have used 3D imaging technology to superimpose it onto your television screen to assist you in understanding what is happening in the game. In this example, real objects and places such as the players and the field are mixed in with computer-generated objects to create an augmentation of reality that enhances the viewer’s experience. Another example is the use of this technology by a surgeon to superimpose MRI imaging data directly onto the body of a patient in order to assist the surgeon in removing the patient’s tumor. This technology can also include the addition of audio data such as commentary or historical data that is designed to add meaning to the user’s experience.
Besides its stationary uses in the fields of medical imaging and classroom learning, this technology also has a number of mobile uses. The most popular mobile uses of the technology are found in the field of aviation, where pilots use it to stay well-informed about the terrain over which they are flying, and the field of mobile education, where it allows students visiting a museum, for instance, to hear a complete historical summary of the artifact they are viewing.
A number of different technological items may be required for the full augmented reality experience. Many experiences require the use of a headset with virtual reality glasses that allow the user to see the world around him combined with the additional augmentation. Sometimes the experience will require nothing more than a smartphone or GPS device that will either project visual data onto its screen or supply contextual audio data about the location you are in or a specific object within that location.
This augmentation should be more than just a text or audio file that happens to go with a certain place. The true experience should provide the information in the right place at the right time and create the illusion of a reality that is actually automatically enhanced by the companion technology. The line between the actual reality and the extra content should be blurred.
Because the technology needed to supply such experiences is usually complex, projects with an augmented form of reality have a tendency to be quite expensive at times. Although overall costs of reality augmentation technology are falling, the development of these programs is still quite expensive and the maintenance costs can be quite high. Because of this, many experiences focus only on an individual user or a small group of users.
As the technology becomes more powerful, cheaper, and more widespread, the experiences will themselves become more lifelike, less expensive, and more universal. These technologies can work wonders for enhancing practically every field of learning, scientific advancement, and practical achievement, and the possibilities are practically endless. Installations incorporating augment reality can help their users become active participants in the content instead of just passive viewers or learners. With this technology, knowledge can be more deeply instilled into the minds of students, projects can be more accurately undertaken by professionals in many different fields, and objects and places can be more thoroughly understood by just about anyone.