What is AR and What Are Its Use Cases? [Beginner-Friendly]
Updated · Oct 16, 2022
Augmented reality is one of the trendiest technologies.
But what is AR exactly?
Even if you don’t know the answer, you had to see AR in action a million times.
Remember the helmet-mounted displays with heat scanners from Predator?
Or the machine vision from Terminator 2: Judgment Day?
AR. All of it.
Unless you somehow missed it, you know about how little animated creatures fuse with the physical world in Pokémon Go. Or you’ve seen broadcasters draw lines on the field when analyzing football games. All that is augmented reality technology as well.
But there’s a lot more to talk about when it comes to this tech.
What Is AR?
Let’s start with the basics - what is AR?
Cambridge dictionary defines it as images produced by a computer and used together with a view of the real world.
In other words, it enhances reality through the use of digital visual elements or any other sensory stimuli technology.
It does so through all sorts of technologies including optical projection systems and display systems.
Although AR has gained a lot of attention recently, it has been around for quite some time. In fact, this tech first appeared in the late 1960s.
Initial devices that were designed to complement a real environment resemble modern-day VR headsets. But besides this tech, ensuring a real augmented reality experience required an entire laboratory.
All the way until the 1990s, this tech didn’t make much progress. Then, with the rise of computers and technology in general, new opportunities opened up. Tom Caudell, a Boeing researcher, came up with the term “augmented reality.”
At first, it was used in military training and sometimes in the entertainment industry. But over time, it really took off. It became an important part of television. Pilots used it to gain better control over aircrafts.
AR technology took the next big step in the 2010s when smartphones initially hit the market. As they became more popular, new ways to use this augmented reality emerged.
Wind the clock forward to 2021, and we’re all using it on a daily basis. According to augmented reality stats, last year, there were over 1 billion AR users.
AR in Our Lives
Even if you don’t know it, chances are you engage in AR content all the time.
But it is absolutely everywhere. Snapchat filters you see when scrolling through your social media pages are augmented reality technology as well.
AR overlays digital information on top of objects from real life and you can experience both at the same time. This makes handheld devices like smartphones and tablet computers perfect for it. And all modern phones, especially those designed for gaming, have all the sensors it needs.
Now that we covered that, let’s discuss the use cases,
Augmented Reality Use Cases
We’ll begin with the entertainment industry and some of the uses of AR we’re all familiar with.
Earlier, we mentioned Pokémon Go. It was exactly this game that popularized augmented technology.
When the game based on the popular franchise first arrived in 2016, it took the world by storm. Within just two days of release, more than 5% of Android users in the US-installed Pokémon Go.
The reason for the game’s success - Niantic, the company behind it, used a brand people already know and love to make an augmented reality.
The game utilized an Image Linked Map (ILM) interface with geotagged locations as spots players can interact with. Not only that but it allowed them to see their favorite collectible monsters in the real-life environment.
Niantic continues to add things to its augmented reality world and it has an amazing effect on the players. The company’s CEO John Hanke said that the game even helped deepen our understanding and appreciation of the real world.
The popular pocket monster game wasn’t the company’s first venture into AR. Niantic released Ingress a few years earlier. Although not as successful as Pokémon Go, the game was a hit and it remains highly popular in 2021 as well.
Some other examples of AR games for Android and iOS include Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Jurassic World Alive, and The Walking Dead: Our World.
This tech is widely popular in many industries.
AR exists on television as well.
If you’ve ever watched an NFL game, you probably noticed the yellow first-down line. But this thing doesn’t actually exist on the field. It’s a computer-generated line that’s only there to enhance the viewer’s experience. And TV networks rely on augmented reality technology to generate it.
The entire field is now interactive and it changes the entire experience of watching football from the comfort of your couch. The first-down line, together with many other computer-generated graphics gives it an entirely new look.
During the game, the tech gathers data from cameras about their tilt, zoom, and pan positions. It generates the first-down line as accurately as possible. The augmented reality system also takes into account the colors of both team’s uniforms and ensures the line doesn’t appear over them.
Meanwhile, the music industry didn’t want to get left behind. Artists and other people in music production decided to implement AR and it largely changed how we perceive concerts and similar events.
For instance, U2 had a huge AR avatar of Bono appear as a part of the band’s Innocence tour.
Another popular use of augmented reality is in the tourism industry.
Now, you can take 360-degree tours of all sorts of venues before you hit the road. This means you have a chance to visit places and events you otherwise wouldn’t consider.
Augmented reality uses within the travel industry are quite wide.
It can help guide travelers around places they don’t know much about. Basically, you can now just point to a sign and an app will tell you where to go if you want to visit a landmark or grab a cup of coffee.
The tech is also often utilized by museums. It gives visitors a chance to learn more about how prehistoric animals looked and how historical devices worked.
Another area AR found its way into is education. You can now find apps that make AR content available in the classroom.
Augmented reality technology is gaining popularity in the healthcare sector, too.
Medical students and doctors are using this tech to learn and practice procedures they’ll later perform on real patients.
But the use of AR isn't limited to life-threatening situations only.
A New York-based company called AccuVein uses it to make finding veins easier when inserting IVs. This increases successful applications by 350%!
Augmented reality also has the potential to improve numerous aspects of the customer experience.
It combines the visualization capabilities of in-person shopping and the ease of doing it from home. This way, brands from various industries can leverage to improve relationships with their customers and make more sales.
Not so long ago, virtual dressing rooms looked like something you’d find in a Sci-Fi movie. But with AR, you can try any piece of clothing without leaving your home at all.
Even the automotive industry can be enhanced with this tech.
Besides the automotive head-up display, car owners can use AR manuals to make looking under the hood easier.
When talking about augmented reality applications in entertainment, we mentioned smartphone games. But there is a myriad of other ways to put AR to use on your mobile device.
All Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok, and similar social media filters you can apply to your pictures and videos are perfect examples of AR. Not only that but more and more apps designed specifically for AR are emerging.
It’s anticipated that this technology will stretch to even more industries in the future. According to some predictions, the number of active AR devices will grow to 1.73 billion by 2024.
Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality
So, how are augmented reality and virtual reality different?
While both of them open virtual and 3D worlds for viewing using technology, there are some major differences between the two.
The biggest difference is that VR creates an entirely new virtual world. And as we mentioned earlier, AR overlays virtual elements over our reality.
This doesn’t mean they can’t cross over into each other’s realms. In fact, a blend of AR and VR is used a lot and it’s often referred to as mixed reality (MR).
VR and AR are now much more accessible for single users, but mixing them requires more processing power. It is mostly reserved for big companies.
The next thing to mention in the augmented vs virtual reality debate is the hardware you need.
In order to set foot into virtual worlds, you need to wear a head-mounted display. These headsets have been around ever since Oculus Rift arrived on the scene in 2016. They’ve evolved a lot and are now considered among the top gaming accessories.
As a result, there are a lot of VR headsets available on the market right now.
The tech uses eye-tracking hardware. Then it reduces the rendering resolution farther from their gaze. The lenses are responsible for mapping the up-close display and widening the field of view.
While they’re often associated with gaming, VR headsets are used across a variety of industries. For instance, they can come in really handy in medical and military training. Real estate agents also walk their clients through properties via VR.
Although AR headsets are also a thing, you need way less augmented reality hardware than you do with VR.
In fact, as long as you have your smartphone or tablet device, you should be able to engage in AR content.
But depending on your goal, you might also want to consider augmented reality devices. They are largely designed as glasses. They can retrieve information from computers, smartphones, and other devices that support WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
Listed below are some of the most common types of AR devices:
- Heads up displays(HUD)
- Holographics displays
VR statistics show both VR and AR devices will see huge growth in demand over the next couple of years. According to some estimates, the market will reach 296 billion by 2024.
So, what is AR?
To put it simply - stimuli technology combined with real-life objects.
Funny thing is, it’s not really new. And it’s literally everywhere.
AR’s potential is limitless. We’ll surely see it in more and more industries. Can’t wait to see what the future holds!
What is AR and how does it work?
What is AR used for?
What is better VR or AR?
Dejan is a techie at heart who always dreamed of turning his fascination with gaming into a career. He finds working for TechJury a perfect opportunity to express his views of all kinds of different software. Being an avid reader, particularly of fantasy and sci-fi, Dejan pursued a degree in English Language and Literature. When not at his computer, he’s watching sports or playing tabletop games.
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