Definition of augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) refers to the technology that offers a real-time view of one's immediate surroundings altered or enhanced by computer generated information.  When users examine their environment through AR devices, they see information superimposed on the objects around them.

The technology used to enhance images with multiple layers of other information is useful in fields where visualising images can be difficult.

For example, some devices use image recognition software to work out what the user is looking at, and then overlay the user’s view of the object with relevant information.  Some devices work out the location of the user, the direction in which they are looking, and then look up an online database to compute which landmarks would be visible to the user.

The device can then overlay the user’s view of these landmarks with relevant information. For instance, pointing a phone camera in the vicinity and direction of say, the Eiffel Tower, can trigger the AR application to recognise the landmark and overlay the image of the tower with pictures of the stages of its construction or facts about the landmark if such information is available.

Example

AR is used for training purposes in various fields.  For example, in the medical sector, trainee surgeons can use AR to superimpose CT scans on the image of a patient to better visualise an area of the body even before an incision is made.

Similarly, BMW reportedly provides AR-based training for service engineers using special purpose goggles and audio instructions that can guide the trainee on how to disassemble and reassemble parts. [1]

The Layar app on Samsung’s tablet device, called Galaxy, delivers an augmented reality experience.  Using the tablet’s camera, the user can scan the area and see icons appear on the screen indicating places of interests such as restaurants and shops, with another icon at the top showing their direction and proximity. [2]

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