As the term itself suggests, “augmented” means “amplified”. It’s something more than reality. But how can reality be amplified? What is real is truth, is considered to be the same under all circumstances, right?
So this is what technology does for us. An “electronically” created “reality” in order to help you visualize or conceive an idea.
For example, most of us a now familiar with GPS and Google maps. We set a destination and the map help us in locating the same, also updating us on the traffic conditions, re-routing if we missed a turn, so on and so forth.
Now just imagine a scenario, wherein, instead of following a map, we switch on the mobile camera, put it on the windscreen of the car and we are able to see all the visible reality along with an electronically generated car, now we don’t have to look into the map again and just follow this electronically visible car to reach our destination. – That’s the first hand AR experience.
The artificial intelligence and a limited capability to give you a virtual person’s experience has already been there in your smart phone. You must be knowing that you can talk to Google in your Android phone and to “Siri” in your iPhone. That’s a virtual person, who responds to what you say, created the same effect visually with an electronic projection of an image of a person / animal / car / or anything which you can relate to is AR
Or else you could related to it in another way, if you’ve visited any archeological site / historical monument. They tell you a route map to follow and hand over an audio recording, the audio keeps explaining the portion by portion of the monument on the route pre-defined. Here the other option you have is to hire a guide, who would do the same things. Now if you replace this guide to an electronically generated image – that talks to you and explains each part of the monument the same way – that’s AR (Augmented Reality).
Now that the experience is clear, let look at what goes behind this to make it a user experience. Like any tech solution, this is again a combination of hardware & software.For Hardware, what you need is a display / projection wherein you can see this electronically generated image, a processor that would generate that image, some memory to store the program and some sensors to guide this virtual image to do certain functionality or other supporting program, like in case of the route map, the GPS sensor or link to a map application. Interestingly, all these conditions are satisfied with an existing gadget in your hand – you smart phone. So thank God, no need to carry an extra device.
But you are a gadget freak, you can have more attachments to your phone like a pair of glasses or a watch or an eye tap, which all would in turn connect to you phone over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to give you the projection at your eyelevel. I am sure there would be many more wearable options too, apart from the one I’ve mentioned above.
For the Software part, there are two sections again, like any other software – that’s the front end that give the user experience and the backend wherein all the algorithms are written. Frontend is where you make the screens for the user and backend is where it communicates with the machines. Usually C++ / visual C kind of software are used for making the frontend and backend is some database management software like SQL or Oracle etc., for the common software. In our case of AR, the standardized tool is ARML (augmented reality markup language) but the frontend has to be logic to relate to mapping, as it has to be real. So whatever is in front of your eyes is converted to a map using principles of visual odometry, and the same is passed on to the backend to give you the reality mixed with computer projection for the feel of AR. Though now a days, there are many software development kits also available in the market to make the process much more simpler for development. Some of the popular are offered by Vuforia, ARToolKit, Cat choom Craft AR, Mobinett AR, Wikitude, Blippar and Layar. There are some more for leveraging cloud computing for performance improvement such as CloudRidAR.
Now comes the most important part – what’s the need for AR?
I don’t believe in technology for no use. If there’s a real life application the technology is good, else it’s junk. So let’s understand the need for AR. As we’ve come a long way from abacus to a smartphone, the world is continuously evolving. And today, we all are into the world of new concepts. A new concept is someone’s brainchild, which is to be transferred to the other people of the probable buyers or the funding agencies to collect the funds and convert the concept to reality.
At concept stage, it’s very difficult to visualize a 3-dimensional structure of anything, be it as simple as a 2 bedroom flat or as complex as a cryogenic engine. With AR, what we can do is actually show the concept visually, and as the saying goes, “seeing is believing”. Communication of the ideas becomes very simple and believable with AR.
Starting from education to real estate, from anatomy to neurology, from levitation to gravitation, from cars to carnation, fashion to fusion, visualizing everything becomes possible.
Lets say, a builder wants to sell a flat, he can show his flat from the 3-D image of his entire residential complex, the view can be from indoor /outdoor / panoramic / top view / bottom view, basically everything to satisfy the probable buyer to give him the complete feel of the entire residential complex. It goes true for a new model of car or a fashion store or a museum or a library, practically every business model, wherein you need to visualize an idea. So you decide what you would like to do with it. Its for your benefit of communicating your ideas and there are no limits to the possibilities.