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Augment Your Reality

In this day and age, us humans tend to flirt with our view of reality. Sometimes to escape the stress of our daily lives, and other times, to reach for something bigger. A reality that is not limited to a physical world, but rather a virtual or augmented world. A world that is only limited by the imagination of its creator and the restrictions of its technology. 

Although virtual reality (VR) is probably the more exotic of the two, augmented reality (AR) presents more viable applications for our day to day lives. But what exactly is AR? It refers to the superimposing of digital information onto a user’s physical environment. Unlike VR which creates a completely new 3D environment, AR aims to enrich a user’s surroundings by overlaying digital information.

“VR is the extreme case of AR, when nothing from the real world is mixed in....It can be tricky if you’re walking around that you might run into things." Bill Gates - Microsoft Founder

If you’ve heard of Pokémon Go, you already know the impact augmented reality can have on society and business. When it was first released, Pokémon Go had a higher daily usage rate on mobile devices than both Facebook and Twitter…BOTH! As you can imagine, that’s a pretty staggering achievement considering how popular both those platforms are. This probably had something to do with the popularity of the original Nintendo game and the cartoon mania that followed, but this is beside the point. In this particular case, AR technology made a whole generations’ dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer a reality. The reason Pokémon Go is mentioned here, is because it opened the eyes of corporations to the huge potential AR technology presents.

However, Pokémon Go isn’t the focus here and it certainly wasn’t the first AR invention. In fact, the concept was first imagined by Lyman Baum dating back to 1901. He had the idea that in the future, there will be an electronic device/spectacle, that will overlay information onto real life. He named it a ‘character marker’. Over the course of the century, several head-up displays and spectacles were developed, but the term augmented reality wasn’t coined until 1990 when Boeing researcher Thomas Caudell, used it to describe the head-up display used by electricians at the time.

Nowadays, there are several different ways to create AR including headsets, hand-held devices, projection, and GPS. Back in its inception, AR was very much dependent on some form of head-up display. However, technology today is a lot more advanced and AR can be presented in several different ways for varying industries. In the very near future there will be retail applications that will be able to present a 3D image of a product from a catalogue on a handheld device or projected onto a table in the store. Or even a step further, you may be able to “try on” an item of clothing by projecting it onto your body at the comfort of your own home.

"“I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you,”  
Tim Cook - Apple CEO

Health care implications are also huge. Already there are AR applications out there that help nurses find difficult veins with ease, or enable doctors to draw on past procedures during a surgery. AR can also present a more cost-effective way of learning for anything that currently requires an “unnecessary” tangible objects such as schematics, models, study books etc. Some of these technologies already exist today and any current cost related barriers, will become irrelevant as the popularity of AR grows.

So, whether its AR, VR or both, there is no doubt that virtual technology is going to shape our future lives both in the home, and at the office. 

 

 

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