While most people are familiar with virtual reality, few are well versed in the technology of augmented reality (AR). Not to be confused with its virtual cousin, AR uses an existing environment and as its name suggests, modifies and manipulates what it is already there for some specific purpose.

Many industries are adopting AR as a useful way to solve problems and expose people to new products and ideas. AR is a perfect promotional tool because it lets users take items on a digital test run prior to purchase. This is especially practical when the product of interest is furniture.

AR is able to overlay virtual objects on real world-scenes, so it is ideal for interior design. Apps like Ikea Place allow a person to scan a room with their phone’s camera and then arrange 3-D objects in the space. With this people can be certain the furniture they are considering fits properly and is appropriately styled.

Another AR home design app allows a person to virtually paint a room. By testing colors before actually applying them, the possibility of a heinous hue ending up on the walls of someone’s home is greatly reduced. The makeup company Sephora has created a similar app that lets women test various beauty products using digital photos.

The medical field has also become a fertile breeding ground for AR applications. Healthcare professionals can now have thorough and meaningful interactions with patients even if they are stuck at opposite ends of the earth. Doctors can assist in diagnoses and treatment plans, and even take part in surgeries without ever being in the same room as a patient.

Whether in critical emergency situations, or scheduled surgeries, AR allows doctors to plan the entire length of a procedure before making a cut. This can help them to predict and avoid any issues that might arise. They can also come up with entirely new approaches that may not have been considered without access to the detailed information provided by an AR walkthrough.

Along with making our lives easier and safer, AR can of course be used for entertainment purposes as well. And like any burgeoning technology, no matter if it is used for work or play, it will be pushed to the limits. As the technology becomes more sophisticated and its applications broaden, the demand for AR will only continue to grow.