augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR): meaning, applications and examples

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Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that enriches human sensory perception with digital information superimposed on physical reality.

Unlike virtual reality (VR), which creates a completely artificial environment, augmented reality integrates virtual elements into the real context, creating a kind of mixed reality (MR).

Augmented reality can be implemented in various fields, such as education, tourism, commerce, art, fitness, industry 4.0, etc. We will shortly see some examples of how augmented reality can improve everyday life and offer us immersive and interactive experiences.

Table of contents

Augmented reality: what it is and how it works

AR technology superimposes digital information onto the real world, creating a mixed experience for the user. Unlike virtual reality which, as anticipated, creates a completely virtual environment, AR allows users to interact with the real world in a more natural way.

Augmented reality works by exploiting a combination of hardware and software: the former can be a wearable device, such as AR glasses, or a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. The software is usually embedded within an AR app that processes digital information and superimposes it onto the real world.

In practice, when a user wears AR glasses or uses a smartphone that supports AR apps, the camera transmits the information from the real world to the dedicated software, which processes it, generating new information that is more relevant to the user’s view.

augmented reality

Augmented reality glasses

Among the most widely used devices for enjoying AR there are augmented reality glasses, which project digital images onto the lenses, allowing the user to see both reality and added elements. Some examples of known augmented reality glasses are:

Google Glass

Google Glass were the first augmented reality glasses to be launched on the market, in 2013. Initially designed for mass consumption, they later proved to be more suitable for professional applications, such as remote assistance, training and logistics. Google Glasses display information such as notifications, maps, video calls and voice commands on the right side of the user’s field of vision.

Microsoft HoloLens

Microsoft HoloLens is the world’s most advanced augmented reality visor: it can create 3D holograms that integrate with their surroundings. HoloLens is equipped with sensors, cameras, microphones and speakers that allow the user to interact with the holograms through gestures, voice and gaze. HoloLens is currently used for educational, artistic, medical and industrial purposes.

Apple Vision Pro

Apple Vision Pro are the most anticipated augmented reality glasses of the moment. Announced by Apple in 2023, they promise to deliver a high-quality AR experience with sharp, colourful and stable images. The Apple Vision Pro glasses will be able to recognise objects and people in the real scene and overlay relevant information and animations. Apple Vision Pro are designed for entertainment, communication, navigation and productivity.

augmented reality

Augmented reality app

Besides glasses, another way to experience augmented reality is through AR applications for smartphones and tablets. These use the device’s camera to capture reality and add digital elements to the display. Some popular augmented reality apps are:

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go, launched in 2016, is probably the most popular augmented reality game in the world. The video game consists of catching, training and fighting Pokémon that appear on the real-world map. In fact, the app uses the device’s GPS and camera to show Pokémon as if they were in reality, stimulating exploration and interaction between players.

Google Translate

Google Translate is Google’s translation application, which also offers an augmented reality function. The application is able to translate texts written in other languages, such as signs, menus, books and newspapers, simply by framing the text with the camera. The application shows the translated text superimposed on the original text, maintaining the format and style.

Sketch AR

Sketch AR helps you draw using augmented reality. The app allows the user to choose an image to draw and projects it onto the chosen sheet or surface. The user can then follow the lines of the image to reproduce it by hand. The app is useful for learning drawing techniques and creating original artistic works.

Augmented reality vs virtual reality

Augmented reality and virtual reality are two technologies both based on the use of devices with screens to create immersive experiences. However, there are some substantial differences:

Augmented reality: a revolution in reality perception

In conclusion, augmented reality is revolutionising our lives in previously unimaginable ways. With the advancement of technology and the diffusion of increasingly sophisticated devices, such as augmented reality glasses, the potential of AR is immense and still untapped.

Whether augmented reality apps or cutting-edge professional tools capable of revolutionising entire sectors, AR is leading us towards a future where the line between digital and real will be increasingly blurred.

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