To augment something is defined as making it greater by adding to it either in size or value. Augmented Reality is a technology that overlays a computer-generated image on the user's view of the real world, which in return enhances (or makes greater) the user’s reality. More and more companies are using this technology recently, to create new interactive games, to better explain assembly processes, to advance medical research, to increase sales and so much more.
People use this technology frequently in their daily lives and may not even realize that it’s Augmented Reality.
Snapchat filters are a type of AR. The camera on the user’s phone scans the environment, your face or someone else’s face and places something on it. This could look like a penguin dancing on your table, a mask covering your face, or fireworks shooting around your head. These effects, in reality, aren’t actually there.
IKEA also has a mobile app that is similar to this. This app scans a room and allows the user to virtually place IKEA’s furniture anywhere in the room to see how it would fit or look before purchase and without having to even leave their home.
Opposed to AR, Virtual Reality is different in a few ways. The main difference that separates these two is that Virtual Reality is virtual (non-existent and completely made up) and replaces the user’s original reality completely; Augmented Reality only overlays or displays something into the original reality instead of consuming that reality entirely.
This company called Beam created a different Virtual Reality platform for VR and AR that lets the user visualize and customize different rooms. They created this Virtual Reality experience where the user can walk around a virtual house selecting various colors, changing the furniture and creating their dream home. This experience completely takes over the users’ reality and replaces it with the multiple settings and homes they have programmed in the software.
A VR platform most people are familiar with is the new PlayStation VR that comes with a headset and offers quite a few immersive experiences.
Reality Technologies talks about the types of main categories for AR (2017). They list these as: Marker Based, Markerless, Projection Based and Superimposition Based (Reality Technologies, 2017). These categories vary based on the way they are accessed or used by someone, whether it be through a QR code for marker based, Global Positioning for markerless or a projection for projection based. The more “futuristic” AR people usually think of is Projection Based. This would be like a hologram of something into the real world either on a surface or 3D.
Like Snapchat, Pokémon Go is a type of Superimposition Based AR, where the phone camera is used to access the environment the user is in and place different Pokémon onto the screen for the user to interact with. On the user’s phone, it looks like the Pokémon is actually on a bench next to you or standing in the street.
Augmented reality works by using cameras, mirrors, smart phones, projectors and most importantly, light. The light is what allows the images to be redirected to our vision. If you want to know in-depth, how Augmented Reality systems work, read more in this Forbes article to get more technical.