17 1 / 2016

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality (AR) has been a popular buzzword in technology media in recent years. While the emerging technology is cutting edge, its origins are in inventions that were developed decades ago in the 1950s and 60s when Morton Heilig invented an augmented movie theater experience called Sensorama. While Heilig’s patented model never took off, it planted the seed for many of the concepts we see coming from AR companies today. AR is the merging of what exists and what can exist. It is taking a visual, real image or scene and overlaying another scene or image in order to create something that’s not quite real, not quite imagined. AR has the power to push us to imagine more accurately while at the same time expanding the possibilities open to us. In other words AR allows us to place a virtual object into a real space in real time; instead of creating a 3D model of the real space and then placing the object.

Media coverage has focused largely on the entertainment and gaming industries as potential industries for AR to take hold, but much more is possible. Hyundai has been praised recently for its effective use of AR in its new take on the owner’s manual. AR is getting traction today on mobile devices, leveraging the camera, user interface and the sensors. Things will really take off when hardware like Microsoft HoloLens become available; transferring the experience from a flat screen into a live, virtual environment. These are early examples of technology enhancing a user experience by merging the real and possible in the burgeoning AR market. 


Image: Microsoft HoloLens