What Is Augmented Reality?

Many people confuse augmented reality with virtual reality. The technology behind virtual reality allows you to experience a thrilling roller coaster ride, a zombie chase or even big game hunting in the jungle, all from the comfort of your favorite easy chair. Augmented reality may not be as thrilling as virtual reality in some sense, but the technology behind it has proven very useful in many ways.

Augmented reality is used in social media, in surgical procedures and in a number of other beneficial ways. This technology has grown substantially over the past few years because it offers a look into the real world through virtual world capabilities. Augmented reality is said to lie on an even plain between virtual reality and the real world.

The Origin Of Augmented Reality

Augment is the basis of augmented reality. Augment simply means to enhance something. In augmented reality, the sounds, graphics and even touch are enhanced and added to the natural world in an attempt to enhance user experience.

Virtual Reality Or Augmented Reality?

Virtual reality requires that you inhabit a virtual environment. With virtual reality headsets for instance, you are completely engrossed in the virtual world. Augmented reality however, uses your own environment and then simply adds information to it in order to enhance it. Augmented reality provides a more real experience of your improved natural environment. Virtual information is used in order to enhance your natural world and this has proven to be a quite useful tool in everyday activities and tasks.

Augmented reality applications can be simple, like text notifications, or more complex such as instructions for performing surgical procedures. These applications may highlight features or enhance your understanding of certain things. Many cell phone applications use augmented reality to help users to better handle certain tasks. Information is provided that is relevant to what you need to do and that information is topical and can provide a number of benefits while you perform the needed task.

Different Augmented Reality Categories

There are many categories included in augmented reality. Each of these offers its own objective and benefit. Just as there are different categories, there are different technologies that help to make up these categories and that help to make augmented reality work.

Marker Based

Marker based augmented reality is also known as image recognition. This technology uses a camera of some sort and a visual marker to provide results. The results are provided only after the visual marker is sensed by the reader.


Markerless augmented reality is also known as location or position based augmented reality. This technology uses a GPS or other similar technology in order to provide information as it relates to your location. The wide availability of smartphones have enhanced this technology. Markerless augmented reality is commonly used for help in finding certain locations, like restaurants or other businesses. Google maps and other mapping devices use this type of technology in order to map directions to certain locations.

Project Based

Project based augmented reality works by projecting artificial light onto surfaces in the real world. These applications send light onto real world surfaces and then detect the interaction of users. They differentiate between the known projection and the projection that is caused by interaction from the users. Project based augmented reality includes laser plasma technology that makes it possible to project holograms.

Superimposition Based

Superimposition based augmented reality can fully or partially replace the view of objects with a new view. Object recognition is a major part of this technology because the original object must be determined in order for an augmented view to be provided. IKEA uses this type of technology in their augmented reality furniture catalog. Users can download the app from IKEA and scan pages within the catalog. Using a smartphone or other app enabled device, the user can then replace their own furnishings with those from the catalog, giving them an idea of what those new furnishings would look like in their homes.

How Augmented Reality Works

The objective of augmented reality is to bring computer generated objects into a real world environment. This is done only for the user to see. In most applications that support augmented reality, users will be able to see natural as well as synthetic light. This is possible through the use of goggles or glasses, which overlay projected images. Devices that support this technology are self contained. This means that they are completely unchained and do not require a computer or cable to operate.

Augmented Reality Devices

Devices that support augmented reality technology include a number of monitors, screens, glasses and various handheld devices. Google Glass is one example. There are also tablets and smartphones that are more commonly owned by consumers that incorporated the augmented reality technology. As the technology continues to advance and improve, devices will begin requiring less hardware to operate and this technology could potentially be added to things like contact lenses.

Control Of Augmented Reality

So now that you know what augmented reality is and a bit about the technology that it incorporates, how do you control augmented reality? Augmented reality devices are normally controlled by voice commands or touch. Touch pads are typically found on the device within easy reach. These touch pads work by sensing pressure that the user places on them, changes that can occur when you swipe or tap the pad in a specific spot. Similarly, voice commands work on augmented reality much like they do on smartphones. Small microphones pick up voice and send it to a microprocessor, which will then interpret the command that is spoken. Voice commands are preprogrammed from a list that is provided with the device and these are normally the only voice commands that you can use. If you augmented reality device picks up voice commands for instance, you can command it to take a picture and it will send the voice command to the microprocessor to take a picture of what you are currently viewing.

Uses Of Augmented Reality

The healthcare industry uses augmented reality for a number of purposes. Newer technology, as it is developed, will ensure that augmented reality can be used for a number of additional business needs. In the healthcare industry, everything from routine checkups at the doctor’s office to a complicated surgical procedure may use this technology, and it provides benefits and efficiency for a number of patient and provider needs.

Your doctor can wear a headset that enables augmented reality in order to give you a general physical. The technology will allow your physician to access your past medical records and images of x-rays and other pictures that can help him or her to better provide the medical care that you need. Historical medical data is provided in real time, which enables your doctor to discuss all of your past medical conditions with you instantly. Instead of having to log into a computer or check records in a more old fashioned way of digging through file cabinets, your doctor can simply pull up your information instantly and discuss it with you as he or she views it via the augmented reality device. This allows all of your medical information to be instantly shared with other professionals and it ensures that all of your medical records as well as physician instructions are consistent from one professional to another.

Pertaining to surgeries, doctors can wear augmented reality headsets in order to better perform surgeries, display surgical checklists and look at vital signs and other pertinent patient information. Surgical technology that supports augmented reality can be used to benefit the doctor in a number of ways, from guidance to records of procedures, live feeds to remote users, checking medical supplies in a particular operating room and instantly accessing vital patient records. They allow for images to be projected onto the body of the patient which enables better treatment. Benefits are phenomenal and include a reduce risk of surgical delays caused by lack of familiarity with conditions, a significantly reduced risk of errors when doctors are performing those surgical procedures and a reduced risk for contamination because the doctor will have real time information pertaining to checking instruments and data without having to remove their gloves, which is the main cause of contamination in surgical procedures.

Augmented reality may not be as commonly popular as virtual reality for consumers but it is certainly a growing technology. While you may instantly think of virtual reality games when considering this term, augmented reality can actually provide much more user benefit than virtual reality. Virtual reality is simply a means of changing your reality, at least visually speaking. Augmented reality offers much more to the user from better healthcare to making it easier for you to do any number of things on a daily basis. This technology is every changing, meaning that as new devices and technologies are developed, the world of augmented reality is sure to change, improve and become as big a part of consumer lives as the internet.


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