An Introduction to Augmented Reality


Before you begin reading this post, do read to understand the concept of virtual reality and virtual reality technologies. However, an easier and much more interesting way to understand virtual reality is to watch the video below:

The video is a good example of virtual reality. It shows a dance game on Microsoft Kinect (a virtual reality system discussed here) which works on the basic virtual reality principle: The physical movements in the real world are tracked, then a rendering computer redraws the virtual world to reflects those movements from the real world.

Here’s another video, in case you enjoyed watching the previous one, which is not at all mandatory:

Now, all of this was virtual reality. So what is augmented reality? Virtual reality, as seen above, attempts to immerse the user into a different world called a virtual world. It is a completely immersive experience. Augmented reality, however, only augments or enhances the real world. It does not create a virtual world, but it does create an enhanced real world.

Let’s see another video to get a better idea of augmented reality. Forgive me for the bad music (concentrate on the pretty girl):

Now, here, the system is an example of an augmented reality system. It does not create a new world for the girl (like a dance stage in the previous examples), but it only enhances the real world by showing the new clothes and how they look on the girl. So, it augments the real world.

Let’s look at another example of augmented reality where the real world is augmented/enhanced. This is a live augmented reality demo by National Geographic:

As seen above, people are still in the real world, but the real world is enhanced with additional images of wild animals and astronauts so as to create an augmented reality. So, an augmented reality view is really a composite view of the real world and virtual imagery that enhances or augments the real world.

There is a lot of buzz about the on-going Google glasses project, which is another example of augmented reality:

A number of mobile applications based on GPS also work on the principle of augmented reality. Augmented reality increases the capabilities of the real world, and allows us to access the real world digitally. SixthSense technology, which provides a gestural interface allowing us to interact with the digital world, is also an example of augmented reality.


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