Augmented reality has been with us for some years now, so I’m quite sure you have heard about it. Probably you also have interacted with some applications that use AR as a major part of their user experience. If we think about our messaging apps, we can immediately think of the funny pictures we send to each other — ‘wearing’ puppy faces or posing in the universe where cats float behind us. Well, yes, I have to admit that sometimes I find it entertaining to use this technology just to have fun, and I’m sure you do, too. But let's be honest, augmented reality can make a real difference in the world, not only for entertainment purposes.
Using AR in other fields can make our lives much easier and better. In this article, I am going to go through some of the most important aspects of how augmented reality can create a positive impact on people’s lives. For instance, how applications that contain AR give a more realistic experience to users than a simple, ‘old-fashioned’ app.
What is augmented reality?
First of all, let me give you a few points on what augmented reality is. As one form of extended reality (XR), augmented reality expands our well-known physical world, adding digital layers of information onto it. While viewing the real-world physical environment, AR gives digital, computer-generated images, graphics, or sounds to this view. The user can perceive an extended, changed reality, making it possible for them to experience more than what the real world could possibly offer.
A very brief history of augmented reality
The early roots of augmented reality go back a few decades — you wouldn’t have imagined that some AR creations already existed in the ’60s, would you? Scientists and artists already did many experiments using the technology of artificial reality back then. However, the term ‘augmented reality’ only came to existence in 1990 by Tom Caudell, a Boeing researcher.
AR was with us for many years without most of the world really paying attention to it. Only a few years ago did it become much more popular (without really being aware of what technology we used), when Pokemon Go, the famous game was released. The user had to find and capture little Pokemon characters in the real world using AR to locate them. With this, augmented reality became a very popular technology used by many people around the globe.
Augmented reality is not virtual reality
So far, we have seen what augmented reality means. By now, we know that it is the extension of our good old real world, but we have to keep in mind that not all technologies that play with our perception are called AR. So, to stay clear of misunderstandings, let’s see what augmented reality is not.
We have all heard about virtual reality as well, of course, but it is quite a different thing from augmented reality. Both technologies sound like they change our perception of reality — which they do — but they are built on totally different concepts.
Augmented reality adds layers to the user’s vision, whereas virtual reality completely changes it. When using applications, games, or any kind of products with VR technology, they replace what we see around ourselves. It thus changes how we perceive our reality, totally blocking our surroundings. When putting on the virtual reality headset, you get the feeling that you are actually somewhere else than you used to be before getting into the experience. Basically, you get into another reality — a virtual one, of course, not a physical one.
So to highlight the difference between these two technologies, the two types of extended realities (XR), AR and VR differ in how much your perception changes: while virtual reality totally replaces the reality you find yourself in, augmented reality adds extra layers to your ‘real reality’.
Industries that use augmented reality nowadays
It is by now quite evident that many opportunities lie in the technology of augmented reality. It is no surprise that many industries have already been using it to be as innovative as possible and to have competitive advantages by which they can be outstanding in their fields.
Let’s see some of the industries that make AR technology a huge success.
Augmented reality can offer power to the industry of healthcare. One great example is medical education. Medical students can get a much clearer picture of organs or diseases when examining, for example, 3D visualizations of the studied topic. What is more, this technology not only helps healthcare professionals become even better in their fields. It also makes it easier for patients and their relatives to understand their illnesses or treatments, as they get a clear visualization of the actual problem.
In more practical use of healthcare, augmented reality can help medical doctors with precision: CT scans become more effective with the help of AR. Also, AR glasses are now able to replace big monitors and endoscopic cameras so that surgeons can focus more on the patients.
In factory manufacturing, it is essential to have perfect items at the end of the process. Augmented reality makes it possible with its visual guidance and direction to speed up the work and make it as perfect as it is possible in manual manufacturing. Not only does this make the whole process faster, but it makes it safer, too.
Another aspect of AR in manufacturing is improving quality control. Manufacturing errors can be noticed and corrected quickly, as it gets much simpler to prototype new or old products. Digitalizing this process allows people working on the product to understand it better and come up with solutions for potential problems faster. Business people in the industry can make decisions quicker too, which, let’s be honest, might be one of the biggest wins of all.
In education, augmented reality can make a huge difference in students’ attitudes – and even in teachers’. When studying a particular topic, it is always much more interesting and enjoyable when the teacher can give something extra to the students. For example, a story that they are involved in or cool visual representations. Well, being able to actually have the visual representation of a historic moment in front of our eyes definitely makes the class a whole new experience.
Augmented reality can be a useful helper at schools or universities, but museums and exhibitions can also take advantage of the technology and give the visitors a really interactive tour. They just have to download an application and point their camera to the piece of art to have a way more fun experience.
I already mentioned AR glasses when I talked about the advantages of augmented reality in the healthcare industry. In navigation, smart glasses have also evolved. You can just put them on when driving your car, and you no longer need to deal with your GPS in a new city or neighborhood. The smart glasses will put all important information on your view, such as restaurants or street names. You don’t have to look somewhere else other than forward anymore. It’s just like a digital map but projected onto what you see in real-time.
Probably I’m not surprising anyone when I mention gaming here, it just deserves its place in this list. I have written about the famous Pokemon Go above, but there is more in this field when it comes to augmented reality. Having an experience in which players interact with their digital environment makes the whole game much more enjoyable. Seeing more information visualized in front of them on more layers is also useful, for example, when playing a match in an e-sport game. People enjoy PUBG mostly because of its interactive nature. They love it so much that they even hack pubg !
The list could, of course, continue. There are many more fields and industries that already use the technology of augmented reality. We could also mention the military, retail, real estate, the food industry, traveling, agriculture, or even fashion. We can be sure that wherever this list ends at the moment, it will have new entries as time goes by.
Augmented reality in 2022
We have seen what augmented reality can do in our world to make our everyday lives and our technologies better. Let’s see what we can expect in 2022 and the following years ahead from this innovative technology.
It is pretty sure that all the industries mentioned above will continue their amazing work with augmented reality, and they will probably try to improve further what they have achieved so far. Thinking of new uses of AR technology, we cannot ignore the fact that our lives have changed during the last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2022 will have a technological answer to the challenges the situation brought to us.
Many of us have to work from home now, so it is time for augmented reality to break into this field. Remote video conferences will probably be improved so we can feel closer to each other. There could be holographic avatars appearing soon. It can also be expected to see more AR technology in mobile apps. Everybody now has mobile phones and tablets, and there is quite a need for something that can make us feel more connected, even if just virtually, but in a more interesting and interactive way.
What we know so far is that augmented reality is almost everywhere around us. We can experience many forms of AR entertainment in our daily lives, not just in a few industries. It is quite an innovative technology. I think we can agree that it should be developed further to see what else it can do to make our lives better.
One thing is for sure: augmented reality is here to stay, so let’s see what else it can bring to our lives — or we can actually start ideating on the possible ways forward.
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