Welcome back to the Tech Predictions for 2017 Series. Augmented Reality (AR) has been getting a lot of press lately. For that matter, so has Virtual Reality (VR), with the announcement of VR gaming systems at January’s Consumer Electronics Show and the release of programs using this technology. VR is a computer system that offers an immersive experience to the user – picture Star Trek’s Holodeck. On the other hand, AR is less understood, in spite of its vast potential to improve user experience and integrate technology with everyday life.
Unlike VR – which places a user completely within an artificially-generated environment – AR takes the world in which we live and superimposes digital information. Whatever the device, be it a smartphone or a standalone product, it uses cameras and GPS data to gather and process information from the surrounding environment. A program, tending to be a downloadable app, then layers additional information on top of this view. Perhaps the best example from 2016 was the game Pokémon Go. Players scan their surroundings using their smartphone’s camera and the game would add graphics on top of the live feed once they reached certain locations, allowing for interaction.
However, the implications for AR are farther reaching than simply video games. Apps utilizing this technology already exist in several genres, including fitness, maps, and translation. The possibilities for AR are endless, and companies are clamoring to add it to their toolboxes. Soon we may be able to virtually test furniture in your own home, access maps which superimpose blueprints onto standing buildings, and even more possibilities. Many industrial companies are already using AR to streamline employee training and other daily operations.
While the Holodeck may be far out of reach for now, wearable AR tech is not. Companies have already attempted to add the technology to eyeglasses, though the trend has been slow to catch on. Also in progress are wearable projectors, which allow for the physical interaction with holograms.
Whether you are a gamer or just interested in learning more about the world around you, AR promises something for everyone. As companies flock to this new and useful tool, we will be seeing more apps that deliver the integration of digitalization and reality.