Augmented Reality | Mr Nutcase

Augmented Reality. What does it really mean?


Augmented reality (AR) technology combines virtual reality with the real world. It is a means to view the physical world, augmented by a computer program either through text on a screen or through graphical representation. Essentially, data and/or images are superimposed over the real landscape. AR is interactive, operates in real time and is three dimensional, enhancing the user’s view of the world. This allows them to participate in an immersive environment, and provides them with relevant information about their surroundings. AR provides a better understanding of whatever a user is looking at, whether it is a geographical location, building, landmark of some kind or a product.

How Can AR Be Accessed?

AR displays include head-mounted devices, such as helmets, goggles or glasses. Spatial displays are particularly useful for mass advertising as they can project on to a fixed surface, such as a table top or wall. Although AR has been around for quite a while, the original head-mounted devices are bulky and therefore not extensively used. Goggles and glasses are becoming more widely available, but as smartphones with high-quality cameras and powerful computer processors have entered the market, AR usage has expanded rapidly and applications such as Layar, Urbanspoon, and Wikitude are becoming better known.

What Is AR Used For?

As well as the ability to use AR for gaming purposes, in military training and in the medical profession, there are other uses. For example, the tourism industry can incorporate AR technology so a tourist could explore an historical landmark and their handheld device could give them relevant facts and figures. AR could even show how the ruined building would have looked when it was at its best, bringing the landscape to life. A museum could provide information about the artefacts as a tourists walks around the displays, even projecting images on to phone cases rather than the smaller screen. From such a visit, personalised phone cases could even be created. This has implications for the use of images of any object or landscape you see.

The experience of simply walking along the street can be enhanced by data being superimposed on your smartphone to give you information about your location, businesses in the area and perhaps nearby companies that are hiring staff. Users could quickly find information about restaurants and cinemas and even read menus and reviews. Retailers in the area could provide information about their location, products, prices, nutritional value, current sale items and promotions and could even send money-off vouchers to users, encouraging them to shop there. Booksellers could provide brief synopses of a publication a shopper picks up, perhaps giving them details of other books by the same author or a copy of the latest bestseller list.

There is huge potential for AR use in the retail industry in terms of marketing. AR is another way of reaching out to the public, as well as a method of providing relevant and tailored information once they have been enticed into a store or outlet. The ability to access information which is only of interest to the individual personalises the experience. If users enjoy such an interactive encounter, they are more likely to return to that particular store and to spread the word.

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