Augmented reality has recently generated a lot of excitement in the tech community. The premise of augmented reality technology is to create a view of the physical world, which is then augmented by the addition of computer information. A simple example of this is a sports broadcast, in which a video view of a live sporting event is overlaid with a computer-generated display of the score and time remaining.
Here are five examples of augmented reality being put to use:
1. Google's Project Glass
Project Glass is an undertaking of the Google X Lab; a high-profile Google division that is best known for creating a driverless car. Project Glass is a head mounted display that looks like a pair of eyeglasses. It features an LED display over one eye, a touch interface, and voice-activated controls. Not much information has been released about the project, but it is obvious that Google is betting on augmented reality to become an important technology of the future.
Google has made a video demonstrating the interesting possible uses of this technology.
2. Mobile Applications
One way an everyday consumer can interact with augmented reality is through mobile applications because modern smartphones are the perfect platform for an augmented reality interface. Many smartphones feature a video camera capable of creating a view of the world on which the phone hardware can overlay real-time information.
One such augmented reality application is the Yelp app for iOS and Android. The app has a feature called "Monocle" that uses the camera to create a display that is overlaid with Yelp information. A user can then hold up the phone at a busy retail street and look at a real-time view of businesses with their Yelp info displayed on top.
3. Transportation Head-Up Displays
Head-up displays have been used in military and aviation for many years, allowing pilots access to important information while keeping attention on the sky. By projecting important information onto the windshield of a vehicle, head-up displays can improve operator safety. Some cars currently feature simple head-up displays, like the Cadillac STS. Almost all major automakers are looking to incorporate more sophisticated augmented reality into vehicles in the future. For example, General Motors is developing technology to combine a head-up display with road sign recognition technology that will alert the driver to important landmarks and directions.
4. Medical Imaging
Medical imaging is becoming an extremely important application of augmented reality. Health care practitioners are now able to project medical imagery on to patient's bodies using head mounted displays. Projecting CT scans though the display can give doctors "X-ray vision" of patients. This provides important contextual cues for both diagnosing patients, and for medical students looking for a powerful learning tool. Medicine is becoming one of the strongest catalysts for augmented reality, as the technology is having a dramatic impact in improving patient outcomes.
5. Hand-Held Gaming
Both the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita hand-held game systems come with extensive support for augmented reality. Both systems work similarly by using cardboard "AR cards" to recognize the physical environment using a built-in camera. Playable game elements are then overlaid on the camera image, giving the user a sensation of playing a video game in the physical world.
The Future of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is still in its infancy, but its uses are growing day by day. Many of the current applications of augmented reality are just scratching the surface of what this technology can do. Better sensory technology and integration will allow augmented reality applications to interact with the environment in more meaningful ways in the future. With ubiquitous computing becoming the norm, augmented reality has the potential to become one of the most important modes of human-computer interaction.