Augmented Reality… things can only get better

by Amber Dermoudy

The phenomenal movie Iron Man is definitely one to remember – not only for the awesome acting, but for the cool technological aspect as well.

While this article won’t be concentrating on Robert Downey Jnr (sorry RDJ fans), we are going to discuss something a little more… shall we say, futuristic.

Imagine if we could all manipulate and see 3D images using only our bare hands like Tony Stark. And what if we could also virtually and digitally create the features of Tony Stark’s now-iconic outfit, but on a mainstream level? Believe it or not, this technology is not all science fiction and is already currently being used by most mobile developers for automatic integration with people’s everyday lives – not just for saving the world.

Known as augmented reality (AR), the world as people see it can be now be digitally enhanced. This form of technology combines digital or computer-generated images with the real world – effectively creating a different way of seeing things while giving the user a new and exciting experience. It does this by enhancing the sounds and graphics to the world as we know it.

For instance, imagine you’re walking along a strip of restaurants and you can’t decide where to eat. AR-equipped smartphones can display additional information like menu, house specialty and reviews – all of which could help you decide where to head. All you have to do is point your phone’s camera at each restaurant and the information is displayed instantly. It’s like the actual image of the restaurant is overlain with the information as you see it on your phone.

Compared with virtual technology – which creates a digital world wherein a person interacts with virtual objects – AR simply adds more “spice” to people’s reality. Contrary to common belief, augmented reality has existed for nearly 20 years when it was first used (you guessed it) in the defence industry. The military has employed its use because fighter pilots needed to be informed of the current statistics of their planes though their goggles. Since then, AR has found its way to the lives of ordinary people.

Smartphones, iPhones and Androids have applications that display menus utilising Augmented Reality. Even the sports and gaming industries have started using this technology as a means of strategising their game play.

In fact, recently a Google team has been working on Project Glass – an eyewear that uses AR. It works on voice-activated commands (like iPhone’s Siri) and line-of-sight icons that help you run your daily errands without lifting your phone or anything at all. It’s all integrated into the piece of special eyewear. With only the simple requirements of internet connection, GPS and an AR-supported application, people can already enjoy an additional twist to their daily lives.

So the main question is, is AR a fad or here to stay? And while questions of efficiency, convenience and overall effect on the world’s economy should still be considered, with just a few more adjustments and humankind’s continuous thirst for new technology I feel augmented reality definitely has a place in our future.

by Amber Dermoudy

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