Augmented Reality is Tech You Should Know About

Anyone who refers to Augmented Reality as a ‘new’ technology hasn’t done their research. The past twenty years have been littered with entertainment gimmicks that loosely use the technology. That being said, modern innovations are providing the framework with which to more fully integrate this type of tech into our daily lives. While creations bordering on the concepts of augmented reality have been around since the sixties, it wasn’t until 1990 that a Boeing researcher coined the term as we understand it today.

An exaggerated visual demonstrating the applications of augmented reality.

For those in the dark, augmented reality refers to a blurring of the lines between what’s real and what’s computer generated. This is accomplished by providing auxiliary digital enhancements to the things we experience. This usually done through sensory cues, changing the things we hear, see, feel, and maybe even smell or taste. Augmented reality doesn’t drastically alter our world in the way that a virtual reality simulation might, but instead enriches our experience of our real, authentic world. Features associated with this technology usually include adding graphics, sounds, and other additions to our perception of the natural world.

Exciting developments have already taken place in the gaming industry, and also through personal computing devices like laptops and smartphones. Some of the most interesting work is taking place in research labs throughout the world, including contributions from Google and MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group.

An example of augmented reality.

In 2009, Pattie Maes and Pranav Mistry exhibited a system titled “SixthSense” at the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. If you don’t know what TED is, go Google that right now. Their project makes use of a projector, mirror, camera, and smartphone in order to turn everyday surfaces into interactive screens. The process involves the user wearing these components on a lanyard, along with four colored coverings for their fingers. This allows the user to manipulate the projected images though hand gestures. It’s an interesting proposal to think about, but the project is still early in development.

‘SixthSense’ in action.

Other applications of augmented reality can be seen in smartphone apps and through GPS functionality. Google’s project Ingress is an excellent example. It’s an augmented reality multiplayer game that uses Google Maps data to connect the online and offline worlds. Think of it as an intense, hyper competitive version of Foursquare. There’s a whole back-story, and lots of detail. In a nutshell, players choose one of two teams, and visit public places in order to control physical territory. It’s basically a meta-game for your daily life. Yet, the larger objective is much more noble – to get people excited about being outside and exploring their respective cities. Besides Ingress, there are countless other augmented reality apps currently in development.

Overall, AR is an engaging technology with a lot of challenges still ahead of it. Like most developing tech, the future seems lined with endless possibilities. Let’s just hope that gaming isn’t the only sector that benefits from such a dynamic idea.

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