We live in very dynamic times. There is lots and lots of development in the technical sphere. From augmented reality to robotics, internet of things or artificial intelligence, one thing is certain: Many technological innovations are continuously being developed in the world. One of those developments is augmented reality, closely related to virtual reality. But what exactly is augmented reality? How does it work? Where can I buy it? Learn more in this article.

Fundamentals of AR

Augmented reality is the technology of (digital) added elements or layers to enrich our real-world environment with computer-generated objects, usually to enhance or improve one’s perception and experience of the real-world. AR is in existence when real and virtual are integrated together, accurate 3D registration is present with realtime interaction. All three characteristics are needed for it to be called AR. This differentiates augmented reality from virtual reality, because VR is a completely computer generated world. The idea is to change the perception of the real-world by adding certain overlays or features.

To make things less abstract: Think about wearing a set of glasses in your main city street, but instead of regular glasses, you will see ‘informational displays’ popping up when physically looking at different restaurants. These digital billboards show you the opening hours of the restaurant, contain information about the menu and show consumer ratings. All projected within your glasses.

Now when you extrapolate those possibilities to other situations, one’s creativity is the only boundary we have.

(More info at https://www.livescience.com/34843-augmented-reality.html)

Where does augmented-reality come from?

AR stems back from the 90s where first prototypes and use cases were developed for the army and later for the gaming and entertainment businesses. This was all back in the day when personal computer adoption was still taking place. The idea was to investigate and show that digital manipulation of the environment could have enhanced performance for humans, in terms of efficiency or effectiveness (talk about being ahead of time).

What does the AR future look like?

In potential, AR will likely be more for functional practices and VR more for entertainment or education. Why? Ofcourse this is speculation, yet when we look at current use cases and how AR and VR is being applied, augmented reality seems to add ‘something’ to our current world. That doesn’t mean it should be functional per se (think about Pokemon Go), but it does seem that it smoothens our experience and takes away ‘obstacles’ in everyday life. Want to navigate to your dinner date? AR will just mark your road and show you the way to walk for instance with arrows and displaying the distance and estimated time of arrival. All on your display in the AR glasses. Nonetheless, it also has many opportunities for games. VR on the other hand, simply cannot add anything to our real-world, because it is complete 3D modelled and generated. There is one ‘but’ which is when real-world is scanned and used to make our virtual world. One can wonder if that still is actual VR? Perhaps thats more a question for a new (philosophical) article.

Where to buy AR glasses or headsets?

Ok, you want augmented reality glasses, but where to get a pair? Several companies develop these smart glasses and sell them through (online) retailers. In Europe there are several companies where one can acquire a pair. Note however, that the use is (still) mostly for business oriented settings. For instance for construction workers to work on a building site or a surgeon investigating a patient. Still looking to order a set of AR glasses? One can look further in these places for augmented-reality headsets: