What Is Augmented/Mixed Reality?

Just about everyone has heard the term Augmented Reality (AR) in the tech news lately. Whether it be something like an augmented Google map, the game everyone went crazy over, Pokemon Go,  or Apple’s AR integrations in the new iPhones, Augmented Reality is coming soon to most all our mobile devices. Well great, but what is it, and how do we employ it for something useful?

Augmented Reality Display

Augmented Reality is a mixture of virtual reality and the camera on your phone. It simply puts images over your camera view, so you can see images overlaid on the picture. These pictures, or assets, can be anything from images and videos to 3D models and animations. Where VR puts you in a virtual environment in which you can interact with all the various assets, AR mixes the “real reality,” your camera, with virtual reality. For example, when you hold up your phone and turn on your camera app, you can see the whole view in front of you or in selfie mode, right there on that big beautiful 4k screen. 

Have you ever used one of those camera apps that put funny images over your pictures and videos? AR uses that camera view image, and places the assets on top. So essentially what you get is Mixed Reality. So, when you see the painting on the wall, the person in that painting might start talking with you via a video that is being placed on top of your camera view. Heads-up displays, like the Apache Helicopter Helmet view, were where we first saw this technology. But, it has come a long way.

Now, you might ask, what are the uses for this? Well, there are several. Think about when you use your favorite map app to find your way to that important party. You see what is in front of you via your camera, but you also see the map markers and names of streets laid on top of that view. There are also several games. The biggest being Pokemon Go. This placed animations of pokemon characters, characters from an anime, over the camera view so that users, or gamers, could find and collect them in all in real space. There are also several medical apps. There is one that allows the user to see the veins when giving a shot.

Once our mobile devices migrate to our eyes via headsets like Google glass, Hololens, or even contacts, our whole world will be a heads-up display. You will be able to choose any data or imagery to be in your view. People’s faces could bring up their social media profiles. You will be able to see others who the same apps you do, for example dating apps. This will change the way we interact with our content, eachother,  and our world.