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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Augmented Reality - The Next Big Thing?

Reality is what we see & believe with our senses but the technology has categorised it further i.e virtual & augmented reality. Both of them are like cousins who are similar but they need to differentiated for better understanding of the latter one. Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is made using software and immerses the user’s senses (sight and sound) completely in a digital world while augmented reality makes use of digital image and sound and superimposes it into the real world. (To make it clear, virtual reality is when you put your phone in google cardboard or various VR equipment available today and immerse yourself to in an artificial world. Augmented reality on other hand is like Robert Downey Jr. in Iron man making projections on whichever surface he wants in a real world. Microsoft's holo lens and Google glass are such examples.)

After making this necessary distinction now let’s discuss how AR (augmented reality) works. Under augmented reality various sensors (including a camera), computer components and a display device are used to create the illusion of virtual objects in the real world. Smartphones at present is the best platform for most commercial augmented reality applications. Perhaps the best example being Google Glass.



The main function of the Google glass is based on the mini projector, which projects image on a prism which further projects over the real view of the user and finally focuses the image on the retina. In general, sense the AG device works by looking for a particular target which may be anything for example a movie poster on wall. As AR app recognizes the target using camera, it processes the image and augments it with respective pictures and sound. In AG devices algorithms and sensors like accelerometers (instrument used to measure the acceleration of a moving body) and gyroscopes (instrument used to maintain a reference direction in navigation systems) are used to keep the augmented elements aligned with real world images.
For example, you may see the movie poster spring to life and play a trailer for the film.


                                           


AR’s potential to impact our lives is immense as it has a wide range of applications due to rise in consumer smart devices. According to Brian Selzer from Ogmento (AR video game maker), AR will not only change the way we live, but will actively shape how our lives progress: “There is no question that AR is going to have a profound impact over the next decade.”

The main commercial development in augmented reality are namely education and gaming. Mainstream gaming consoles, Playstation & Xbox have included augmented reality capabilities for the last two console generations. They have incorporated AG in the form of the Kinect (for the Xbox) and Playstation Eye (Playstation 4 & 3). It is being also used in fields such as medicine where students can get benefit of live 3D models. In medical practice AR is also been used for example,  Veinviewer system shows a real-time image of infrared vein scans directly onto the patient’s skin. Thus, creating the impression that patients the skin is transparent which allows the doctor to “see” the veins directly.

Future AR applications :
Tourism – Geolocative media includes navigational and historically-relevant data.

Publishing – enhancing print media through targeted AR (For Eg: IKEAS’s catalogue), study materials, manuals, etc.

The Military – Unmanned drones with complex HUD systems, and army training.

Manufacturing – AR manuals that will facilitate technicians to work with reduced scope of error, which may further reduce production costs

Retail – AR shopping will result in sophisticated immersive experiences


                                          


In spite of all good future applications AR has some limitation as well like the GPS used has accuracy within the range of 30 ft. and does not work indoor, least network requirement is 3G and camera quality also affects the technology quality. A major disadvantage is that the present mobile devices are still not powerful enough to process the required amount of data in real‐time i.e. to run at interactive frame rate (15‐30 frames per second).

To conclude, augmented reality will have good future prospects despite some limitations. It, being an evolving technology is facing technical, social and financial problems. As time passes and this technology matures all these issues will be rectified. 

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