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What is Augmented Reality

Computer graphics have evolved over the past few decades and perhaps at an extremely faster rate in the past few years. From early 2D graphical programs to present day 3D graphics and virtual reality applications, the sophistication of computer imagery is overwhelming. However, many experts predict that the best is yet to come and that the year 2013 would become the year of ‘augmented reality’.

To illustrate what augmented reality is, imagine that you are driving your car through the streets of an unfamiliar city. You need to find an office building, which hosts a meeting to which you are invited to attend. While present day GPS navigation systems might show you the driving directions, the location and in some instances, a 3D view of the vicinity that you are approaching, it involves conscious use of many sensors in your body while having to drive your car through a hectic traffic. Even if such devices are able to produce 3D images of the vicinity that you travel, sometimes it may be difficult to match the virtual display and your field of vision to navigate properly.

Now, imagine that you are wearing a pair of glasses with an integrated computer, GPS and internet access that is capable of producing ‘augmented reality’. In such a scenario, the pair of glasses that you are wearing will provide you with your normal field of vision. However, in addition to what you see through your own field of vision, the computer will generate 3D images of important landmarks, driving directions, and the office building to which you are suppose to travel and integrate the same into your field of vision. It may also show details related to each of the landmarks and even the floor of the office in which the meeting is to take place. In addition, you may even be able to obtain a history of the building that you are visiting along with the parking spaces and other facilities that are available within the same building. While it enhances your field of vision through various 3D imagery, it may also provide you additional sense of hearing by describing your field of vision. In case you are looking at the wrong direction, the pair of glasses that you are wearing may be able to vibrate and change your focus by turning the head.

Thus, the concept of augmented reality blurs the demarcation between what is real and what is computer generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and even smell. It may enhance your perception of the physical world real time, directly or even indirectly depending on its use.

The above example illustrate just one use of augmented reality and given the available technologies and the prototypes that have cropped up in the past few months, experts believe that it might not take long for augmented reality to become a market trend.

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