Extended reality: the future of mobile computing.


From social media filters, to surgical procedures, AR is rapidly growing in popularity because it brings elements of the virtual world, into our real world, thus enhancing the things we see, hear, and feel. When compared to other reality technologies, augmented reality lies in the middle of the mixed reality spectrum; between the real world and the virtual world.

Augmented reality (AR) can be defined as able to deal with the new information immediately direct or indirect therefore influence the physical real-world environment has been enhanced/augmented were by adding virtual computer-generated information to it.

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery - creating a mixed reality. The augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements Let’s break down the term "augmented reality" for a minute. "Augmented" means to make something more complex by adding something to it. “Reality” is known as the state of things as they actually exist.

Computer graphics have progressed to a point where the images are often indistinguishable from the real world

Augmented reality is a technology that works on computer vision based recognition algorithms to augment sound, video, graphics or GPS data, 3d models, or any electronic data which can be represented visually. The augmentation is thus reflected on sensor based inputs on real world objects using the camera of your device.

Many recent papers broaden the definition of AR beyond this vision, but in the spirit of the original survey we define AR systems to share the following properties:

  1. Blends real and virtual, in a real environment.
  2. Real-time interactive.
  3. Registered in 3D Space.

Types of AR

There are essentially 3 different kinds of displays of augmented reality :

  • The head mounted display (HMD) is worn on the head or attached to a helmet which is called Mixed Reality.
  • The handheld device is a mobile smartphone such as the Cell Phone or a tablet.
  • Spatial display makes use of projected graphical displays onto fixed surfaces through Camera.

There are two major forms of augmented reality, marker- based AR and marker-less AR.

  • A marker-based AR works on concept of target recognition. The target can be 3D object, text, image, QR Code or human-face called markers. After detection of the target by AR engine, you can embed the virtual object on it and display it on your camera screen. Qualcomm Vuforia SDK is the recommended framework to develop native apps.
  • Marker-less AR, also known as location-based AR, uses GPS of mobile devices to record the device position and displays information relative to that location. Some of the examples of marker-less AR are apps like Layar and Wikitude that let you view information of nearby restaurants and other establishments.

Augmented reality is often presented as a kind of futuristic technology, but it's been around in some form for years, if your definition is loose. For example, the heads-up displays in many fighter aircraft as far back as the 1990s would show information about the attitude, direction and speed of the plane, and only a few years later they could show which objects in the field of view were targets.

In the last several years various labs and companies have tried to build devices that give us augmented reality. In 2009, the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group presented SixthSense, a device that combined the use of a camera, small projector, smartphone and mirror. The device hangs from the user’s chest in a lanyard fashion from the neck. Four sensor devices on the user's fingers can be used to manipulate the images projected by SixthSense.

Google rolled out Google Glass in 2013, moving augmented reality to a more wearable interface, in this case glasses. It displays on the user’s lens screen via a small projector and responds to voice commands, overlaying images, videos and sounds onto the screen. Google pulled Google Glass at the end of December 2015 but plans to make a new version.

As it happens, phones and tablets might be the way augmented reality gets into most people's lives, at least at first. Vito Technology's Star Walk app, for instance, allows a user to point the camera in their tablet or phone at the sky and see the names of stars and planets superimposed on the image. Another app called Layar uses the smartphone’s GPS and its camera to collect information about the user’s surroundings. It then displays information about nearby restaurants, stores and points of interest.

Some apps for tablets and phones work with other objects as well. Disney Research developed an AR coloring book, in which you color in a character in a conventional (though app-compatible) book and launch the app on the device. The app accesses the camera and uses it to detect which character you are coloring, and uses software to re-create the character in 3D character on the screen.

This doesn't mean that phones and tablets will be the only venue for AR. For example there's work being done on augmented reality earbuds, which allow you to adjust the sounds that come in from your surroundings. Research continues apace on including AR functionality in contact lenses and other wearable devices that would operate by themselves. The ultimate goal of augmented reality is to create a convenient and natural immersion, so there's a sense that phones and tablets will get replaced, though it isn't clear what those replacements will be. Even glasses might take on a new form, as "smart glasses" are developed for blind people.

Like any new technology AR has a lot of political and ethical issues. Google Glass, for example, raised a privacy concerns. Some worried that conversations might be surreptitiously recorded or pictures snapped, or thought that they might be identified by face recognition software — though Google officially said it wasn't allowing face recognition apps onto Google Glass' version of an App Store, a startup called Lambda Labs said they were making one anyway.

AR or augmented reality has gone from pipe dream to reality in just over a century. There are many AR applications in use or under development today, however – the concept will only take off universally when UX designers think about how they can integrate AR with daily life to improve productivity, efficiency or quality of experiences. There is an unlimited potential for AR, the big question is - how will it be unlocked?