Augmented Reality (AR)

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Augmented Reality (AR) Definition

This concept is all about supplementing the user’s real, physical world with virtual things, so they appear to coexist in the same environment. AR brings computer-generated objects into the real world — kind of like how in the movie Space Jam, Michael Jordan can be seen playing basketball with Looney Tunes characters.

In retail, AR can be implemented in several ways, including shoppable catalogs, apps that let you see in-store deals when you point your phone’s camera towards a specific direction, or even fitting room simulators.

Case in point: Topshop teamed up with AR Door to create a virtual fitting room for its Moscow location. Using augmented reality technology and Microsoft Kinect, they were able to create a fitting room simulator that allowed the customer to see how a dress looks on her without actually trying it on. A built-in camera tracked the shopper’s body and superimposed a 3D model of the garment, so the dress moved and turned with the customer.

Augmented Reality allows an image, moving or still, to be superimposed onto a video being viewed in real time.  Early examples of augmented reality included lots of mobile games, where creatures and treasure chests would appear on screen in your living room.  In its early stages, augmented reality seemed gimmicky.  The technology was there for great application, and beyond games or camera filters, there wasn’t any great application for the technology.

However, that has changed as technology has progressed, particularly in the arena of advertising.  Samsung had a commercial go viral where people waiting for a bus saw UFO’s, animals racing towards them, and people fleeing disasters running at them using augmented reality through a screen at the bus stop.  Since the screen also showed what was actually behind the screen, it was very convincing to unaware viewers.  More importantly, it got people’s attention.  Amazon has been able to successful advertise with augmented reality as well.  During their Prime Day in 2018, they launched an augmented reality service that allowed you to ”place” furniture in empty spaces in your house, so you could not only see if the furniture would fit, but also if the furniture would aesthetically fit in the space.  Other stores, including Ikea, have begun to offer similar services.   

Augmented reality is also has practical usefulness outside of advertising.  Businesses can look to using augmented reality.  For example, augmented reality can be used to visualize pipes, wiring, or other material that is covered or otherwise unseen.  It can help engineers visualize certain machines in a certain space, and allow them to manipulate pieces at will before the actual machine arrives.  American Airlines has begun to offer an augmented reality service that creates a path that you can follow in real time to get to your gate.  

Apple has implemented augmented reality into their new operating system as well.  You can now use the camera to accurately measure distances between two points simply by trailing a dot on the screen.  They are also pushing for education purposes as well, using examples of having a virtual body for a biology class that is visible through iPads or iPhones that replace physical models, or allowing students to explore outer space in 3D models that they can actively manipulate.  Topographical maps become 3D and are easily seen through augmented reality, and are far easier to visualize than a traditional map, as the landscape looks like it’s rising from the table.  

Improving technology has allowed the present usefulness of augmented reality to have hundreds of applications in the present, and as technology improves, augmented reality will become more useful.  Glasses or contacts could provide augmented reality services easily, and more importantly, constantly, essentially making an augmented human, which will give rise to eventual ethical concerns as well.  Concerns such as asking if humans should be allowed to be permanently augmented, or if allowing human augmentation via augmented reality should be allowed to become the new norm for humans. 

Augmented reality has a fast growing and exciting future ahead of it and will only become more common and more expected as technology improves. 

If you have a product, we want to hear from you!