What Is Augmented Reality?

7 min read
A Krikey NFT Avatar holds a rose in an Augmented Reality landscape

Most of us have heard of the alternate world of virtual reality (VR). However, there’s another player in the game of reality manipulation that few of us recognize, yet most of us use without realizing– Augmented reality (AR).

So, what is augmented reality, and how are we using it? This article dives into this technology and how most of us use it without knowing it, so continue reading to learn more!

A GIF of different face filters next to an image of someone using AR to choose new furniture
Image Credit: Snapchat (image left), IKEA (image right)

What is Augmented Reality?

By definition, augmented reality is an enhanced version of the natural world we live in, achieved via various digital elements, such as sound, visual, or other sensory stimuli. Or, in simpler terms, augmented reality is essentially a combination of computer-generated factors with real-world components.

You may not realize it, but many apps and tools we use daily classify as augmented reality.

Instagram and Snapchat lenses? Check.

Virtually modeling clothes before purchasing? Yes, check.

Various games or iPad’s LiDAR? Also, augmented reality.

Amazon’s convenient “view in your room” feature? Also, augmented reality.

Augmented reality simply adds to or enhances what already exists, unlike virtual reality, which creates its own cyber environment, completely isolated from reality.

A digital scan of people crossing an intersection
Image Credit: NVIDIA

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Augmented reality works by applying computer-generated elements into your real life. Whether it's a mobile phone, tablet, computer, or something similar, the device you're using collects information.

AR utilizes computer vision, mapping, simultaneous localization, and depth tracking to give an accurate view.

Your device’s camera collects, sends, and processes data, which enables it to show digital content that applies to whatever it is you’re looking at. Since millions of people utilize Snapchat and Instagram filters and lenses, let’s examine those.

For example, let’s say you’re using a lens on your face. Your phone may tell you to “find a face” or “flip the camera,” depending on which filter/lens you’re using. The camera in your device collects the necessary information, and within seconds, you’re looking at an enhanced version of yourself.

Perhaps it’s a beauty filter that alters a person's nose, eyes, and jaw shape to meet society’s vision of beauty. Or, maybe it’s a silly filter that gives you a distorted view of your face or the once-popular dog ears and tongue filter.

These are both examples of augmented reality: it’s a combination of you as you genuinely appear in real life with computer-generated alterations according to the information your camera collects.

A fictional image of a military soldiers using augmented reality in combat
Image Credit: Jasoren

AR In Action

Although Snapchat lenses and filters are an excellent way to describe augmented reality, the technology is simply remarkable and applies to numerous additional areas. What does AR look like in real life? Aside from the frequently-used Snapchat or Instagram lenses, you’ll find AR in several forms.

U.S. Army

The United States Army uses AR technology to provide an advanced, improved sense of situational awareness. Soldiers can use an advanced piece of technology called “Tactical Augmented Reality” (TAR). The tech comes in the form of an eyepiece that allows soldiers to precisely pinpoint the location of others, regardless of whether they’re friend or foe.

The design will replace night-vision goggles, giving soldiers a more accurate field of view, even in the dark. One day, TAR will replace handheld GPS systems soldiers carry to provide their approximate positions.

An artist uses an AR device to turn a 2D drawing into a 3D model
Image Credit: Disney Research

Disney

Disney Research also has incorporated AR technology, although they developed it nearly seven years ago, in 2015. The technology makes coloring book characters come to life in a 3D view of the actual image. With the tech, users hover the device over their finished product in the coloring book to see a 3D version of their art.

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality

Are AR and VR the same? Although somewhat similar in concept, augmented reality and virtual reality are entirely different in application. People often confuse the two, using them interchangeably and not recognizing their vast differences.

Virtual reality develops a virtual world that is entirely separate from the real world. You can move around and interact with the 3D world using the technology. The elements you see are altogether computer-generated imaging (CGI).

On the other hand, augmented reality incorporates virtual elements into the real world. Instead of gallivanting off into an alternate world, you stay grounded in what is real, plus a few CGI additions. Immersive AR systems can combine computer elements with the natural world in an almost believable transition, using depth, perspective, and other rendering characteristics.

The technology can well understand the environment to place virtual objects “in front of” or “behind” relevant, tangible objects.

Two animated people use their phone and laptop in the city
Image Credit: Pixelplex

The Use Cases of AR

The concept and technology behind AR are impressive - we get it. How does it apply to real life, and where can we use it? It has the potential to make our tasks in our actual lives easier, better, or faster, depending on the application. The list of possibilities seems never-ending, but here are a few where AR could be beneficial:

  • Retail: Many retail companies are moving towards incorporating AR into their marketing strategies. For example, several apps, like Wayfair, Ikea, and Houzz, allow customers to “place” furniture and other products in their homes.
  • Maintenance: This technology could also revamp maintenance work, as advanced systems can help understand the context and display the correct information, which can assist in identifying workflows and components via highlights and overlays.
  • Education: AR-based instructions allow individuals to quickly and easily perform various new tasks. Instead of using traditional methods, AR (potentially in the form of wearable devices, like smart glasses) could revolutionize education.
  • Mapping: This is another area where AR tech can come in handy. Mercedes-Benz is introducing a car with this tech that essentially overlays navigation information on the windshield, thus allowing drivers to navigate without looking away from the road.
  • Selling: AR technology makes it possible to try on something new, like a pair of glasses, before you buy it. Another example is trying out paint colors on your walls virtually before buying.
  • Social platforms: As we discussed above, AR is common in various social platforms, including Snapchat or Instagram, in the form of lenses and filters.
  • Gaming: AR technology makes an appearance in dozens of modern games. The incorporation isn’t a surprise, as this was an area where many people saw an obvious use for the technology.
  • Healthcare: Augmented reality has the potential to revolutionize healthcare as well, through more easily accessible education, assistance for the visually impaired, a different view of the vasculature of the human body, or even remote surgical expertise assistance.
Symbols from the Pokemon Go augmented reality game are displayed over a landscape
Image Credit: Pokemon Go

How AR Might Revolutionize the Gaming Industry

Augmented reality has the potential to overhaul the gaming industry, possibly going as far as causing a fundamental shift in how gaming is done. The technology could make games more attractive, engaging, and fun, drawing in thousands of participants.

For example, consider Pokémon Go, a simple application of AR technology. The game allowed players to capture, battle, train, and trade virtual Pokémon that appear throughout the natural world via the game. So, players must search far and wide to locate these virtual Pokémon.

The game created a global phenomenon, resulting in thousands of participants meeting in various locations in an effort to advance in the game.

The technology is capable of redefining how the gaming industry works. It promotes real-time interaction between real and virtual elements, creating an almost dream-like middle ground for users. The end result of an AR/real-world cocktail is an immersive space that has plenty of room for growth and development.

Three screenshots from the Krikey Yaatra AR game show Princess Maya and the Monkey King

Krikey Augmented Reality

The Krikey app, available on iOS and Android devices, allows you to make Augmented Reality short videos, Augmented Reality reels and play Augmented Reality Games. You can create custom 3D avatars and insert them into real life scenarios with your smartphone’s camera. You can also make custom animations, change your avatar’s clothing style, and use AR mode to interact with your Avatar on screen. Your 3D Avatar can also be used in Augmented Reality games in app!

To start creating and playing with Krikees, download the app today!

Bottom Line

Augmented reality is a part of the daily lives of millions of people worldwide, whether they realize it or not. While the technology may regularly appear as basic lenses or filters on a social media platform, for now, it has the potential to grow and develop, revolutionizing a diverse array of industries and how we approach them.

Everything from gaming, retail shopping, healthcare, and driving: AR could drastically shift it all, helping us move towards a technologically advanced tomorrow.

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