Augmented reality is changing the world.
It was only a year or so ago that owners of mobile phones began scouring the world for imaginary monsters. By using their GPS coordinates and keeping track of their progress through a centralized database, the developers of the world’s most popular augmented reality game were able to create a pop culture phenomenon and introduce the world to the idea of combining the digital world with the real world.
What is Augmented Reality?
The best way to visualize how augmented reality works is to think of your phone’s camera as a lens through which you are seeing the real world. Your lens creates a digital object that is superimposed on the real world and then simulates that object having a location in the real world.
A good example would be to consider three parking spaces, two of which are occupied with real cars. An augmented reality application could create a virtual car and locate it in that third parking space. The only way to “see” that virtual car is to look at it through your phone or mobile device.
The first and most obvious application of this technology is exactly what it does: virtualization. Imagine being an architect and being able to show a construction company the building you designed already constructed in a vacant lot? The contractors could even walk around the property and see every detail. While this might sound a little science fiction-ish, the exact same technology used in VR gaming would make it possible.
What if a mechanic could see a virtual overlay highlighting the location of a part in a car engine while they work on the engine? What if the engine itself could be presented in a multi-layered display with heads-up real-time data on its operation? Think of the attendant capabilities of the same technology in a medical operating room. These are just a few of the near-future enhancements to a productive enterprise that will become possible with even a crude model of the augmented reality being used right now.
The key advance in augmented reality is the ability to establish location in the real world for a virtual object. This naturally requires the mobile device have a fixed location or trajectory in the physical world, but it also requires a remote database of objects and their equivalent locations relative to each user. Once this technical hurdle is overcome, an endless number of applications becomes possible, each more productive than the last.