Compared to Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) technology may seem as an understudy of the former. However, the two technologies quite different.

While VR creates a whole new world for users, AR links the virtual world to reality by enhancing what people hear, see, and feel. It is the missing link between the two reality spectrums.

As technology bigwigs such as Google and Apple continue to push the tech, there’s a lot to learn about AR. Here’s everything you need to know about this game-changing technology.

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is from the word “augment”, which basically means increasing something or adding to it. This definition is a true reflection of how AR actually works because it adds to the way users view the real world.

With AR, the appearance of the environmental elements is enhanced by computer-generated sound, graphics, and video outputs. To fully indulge in the experience, you need to wear AR glasses.

Although output overlays can add graphics to the real environment or mask it all together, AR does not create a virtual world. Rather, it creates an immersive way of perceiving and experiencing reality, while maintaining the sensory awareness of your surroundings.

How Does Augmented Work?

AR applications use either location-based or marker-based approaches.

Marker-based apps use inbuilt software to identify patterns captured by a camera, and then relay the resultant image to a screen. For animated or 3D images, markers overlay them as digital episodes that unfold on the surface of the printed surface.

On the other hand, location-based apps use geographical locations recorded by a device to provide relevant digital data. For example, if you forget where you parked your car, a location-based app will use your smartphone’s location history to find it.

Is Augmented Reality New Tech?

No. In fact, the origins of AR can be traced all the way back to 1957.

A machine known as the Sensorama was the earliest form of AR. It would blow wind on you while vibrating your seat to simulate real-world experiences, completing the immersive experience with clear stereo sound and 3D film.

9 years later, Ivan Sutherland discovered a new addition to the Sensorama – head-mounted display. This new feature improved the machine’s augmentation, creating more vivid depictions of the real environment using computer-generated data.

Tom Caudel – a Boeing researcher affiliated with virtual graphics – was the first man to name the technology “Augmented Reality”.

What Skills Does an Augmented Reality Developer Need?

3D modeling, mobile/web programming, and astute computer vision abilities are must-haves for AR developers. Your knowledge of 3D modeling should encompass rendering, texturing, and shading. Additionally, you must be well-versed in C# and C++ programming.

More importantly, you need to be passionate about pushing the edges of new tech and keep track of emerging research in the AR field.

How Expensive is Augmented Reality?

Contrary to common belief, AR tech is not too expensive to be incorporated into product development. Thanks to the unveiling of Vuforia Studio Enterprise, companies can now implement AR without necessarily having to hire code specialists. With this software, creating, servicing, and operating connected products has never been simpler and cheaper.With more companies such as AR Toolkit, 13th Lab, Total Immersion, Orbotix, and Arpa Solutions offering high-tech AR, the deployment of this technology in enterprises is expected to get even cheaper.

Which Platforms Can You Use Augmented Reality On?

There are a few platforms out there that support AR. But one of the most common platforms is Layar – an AR browser owned by a Dutch company.

Layar utilizes your phone’s compass, camera, and GPS features to locate and determine your field of view. Digital data is then retrieved according to your geographical coordinates, and the output is overlaid on your screen.

Qualcomm is another leading AR platform. It has led the way in the development of AR apps on Android devices. The company recently launched a new kit for developing AR software for phones and tablets operating on Google’s Android system.

What’s the Future of Augmented Reality?

AR has been in the take-off phase for the last few years. Today, more consumers are appreciating its importance and we can only expect this trend to continue. With the ever-increasing internet speeds and vast information databases, big innovations can be expected.

Perhaps the greatest innovation in AR will be achieved when developers discover a better alternative to a screen. While current AR apps produce spectacular effects using screens, they still present the biggest innovation barriers in the field.

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