Although augmented reality has been around for many years, it wasn’t until Android and iOS smartphones began to feature GPS, a camera, and AR functionality that augmented reality became mainstream to the public. Augmented reality is a technology that combines virtual reality with the real world in the form of real-time video images that are digitally enhanced by computer graphics. AR can be felt through headphones people wear and through displays on mobile devices.

AR hand equipment

What we like
  • Convenient to use.

  • Inexpensive compared to AR equipment.

  • A growing collection of available applications.

What we don’t like
  • Lower quality than with AR hardware.

  • Not all smartphones support AR.

  • Doesn’t provide the full AR experience.

A long list of AR software development kits for Android smartphones and Apple’s ARKit for Mobile provide developers with the tools they need to add AR elements to their applications.

Want to see what virtual furniture looks like in your room before you buy it? There will be an AR app for that soon. Want to clean up your dining table and fill it with your favorite action and adventure games and characters? You can.

Quantity AR apps for iPhone devices and Android has increased significantly, and they are not limited to games. Retailers are showing great interest in the possibilities of AR.

AR headsets

What we like
  • AR of the highest quality.

  • Well integrated sound.

  • A truly immersive AR experience.

What we don’t like
  • Very expensive.

  • Cumbersome to use.

  • Requires specialized software.

You may have heard of Microsoft’s HoloLens or Oculus VR headset from Facebook . These high-quality headsets were eagerly awaited by everyone, but only a lucky few could afford them. The headsets were soon offered at a consumer price—the Meta 2 head-mounted display headset costs three times the price of HoloLens. Like most AR headsets, it works in PC-tethered mode, but free headphones are coming soon. Inexpensive headsets are available for use with smartphones and tablets. The future may see smart glasses in vogue or smart contact lenses.

AR Applications

Mobile device showing augmented reality
David Malan/RF Photographer’s Choice/Getty Images

Early applications for PC, smartphones and tablets for augmented reality have been focused on games, but the use of AR is much wider. The military is using augmented reality to help men and women make repairs in the field. Medical personnel use AP to prepare for operations. Possible commercial and educational applications are not limited.

Military AR uses

What we like
  • Provides an advantage on the battlefield.

  • Reduces distraction.

  • Provides information at a glance.

What we don’t like
  • Ambient lighting may reduce quality.

  • Increases the cost of military equipment.

  • Consumes additional power.

The Heads-Up Display (HUD) is a typical example of augmented reality when it comes to military applications of the technology. The transparent display is located directly in the pilot’s field of view. The data normally displayed to the pilot includes altitude, airspeed and horizon in addition to other important data. The term «heads-up» is used because the pilot does not have to look at the aircraft’s instrument panel to get the data he needs.

The head-up display (HMD) is used by ground troops. Critical data such as enemy location can be presented to the soldier within their line of sight. This technology is also used for educational simulations.

Medical use of AR

What we like
  • Places medical information in front of the surgeon.

  • Reduces the risk of errors.

  • Improves surgical accuracy.

What we don’t like
  • Requires expensive software.

  • Software bugs have a significant negative impact.

  • Requires specialized equipment.

Medical students use AR technology to practice surgery in a controlled environment. Visualization helps explain complex medical conditions to patients. Augmented reality could reduce the risk of surgery by giving the surgeon an improved sensory experience. This technology can be combined with MRI or X-ray systems and brings everything together for the surgeon.

Neurosurgery is at the forefront when it comes to the surgical application of augmented reality. The ability to depict the brain in 3D on top of the patient’s actual anatomy is powerful for the surgeon. Because the brain is somewhat immobile compared to other parts of the body, registration of accurate coordinates can be achieved. There is still concern about tissue movement during surgery This can affect the precise positioning required for augmented reality to work.

AR apps for navigation

What we like
  • Creates an easy driving experience.

  • There are many high quality AR apps available.

  • Keeps driving information at a glance.

What we don’t like
  • May consume a lot of mobile data.

  • May lead to distracted driving.

  • The best AR navigation apps are not free.

Navigational Apps are arguably the most natural augmented reality addition to our daily lives. Advanced GPS systems use augmented reality to make it easier to get from point A to point B. Using a smartphone camera in conjunction with GPS, users see their chosen route over a live image of what is in front of the vehicle.

Sightseeing in augmented reality

What we like
  • Easy access to information libraries.

  • Enhances your travel experience.

  • Learn more about places.

What we don’t like
  • Drains phone battery quickly.

  • Mobile data required.

  • May lead to distracted walking.

There are a number of applications for augmented reality in the field of excursions and tourism. The ability to complement the live presentation of exhibits in a museum with facts and figures is a natural use of this technology.

In the real world, sightseeing has been enhanced with augmented reality. With a smartphone equipped with a camera, tourists can walk through historical sites and see facts and figures presented as an overlay on the screen in real time. These applications use GPS and image recognition technology to search for data from an online database. In addition to information about the historical place, there are applications that look into history and show how this place looked like 10, 50 or even 100 years ago.

Maintenance and repair

What we like
  • Easy access to information libraries.

  • No need to break away to do research.

  • Instructions are available at a glance.

What we don’t like
  • Requires expensive equipment.

  • May interfere with repair work.

  • The equipment may become dirty and damaged.

Using a head-worn display, an engine repair mechanic can see superimposed images and information in their field of vision. The procedure may be presented in a box in the corner, and a picture of the required tool may illustrate the exact movement the mechanic must perform. The augmented reality system can label all the important parts. A complex procedural repair can be broken down into a series of simple steps. Simulation can be used to train technicians, which can greatly reduce training costs.

AR Gaming takes off

What we like
  • Immersion in the gameplay.

  • Experience the cutting edge of the game.

  • Some games require expensive hardware.

What we don’t like
  • Lots of low quality games on the market.

  • High quality AR games can be expensive.

  • Management can be difficult.

With recent advances in computing power and technology, augmented reality gaming applications are on the rise. Head-worn systems are now affordable and computing power is more portable than ever. Before you can say «Pokemon Go,» you can move on to an AR game that works with your mobile device, superimposing mythical creatures on your everyday landscape.

Popular Android and iOS AR apps include Ingress, SpecTrek, Temple Treasure Hunt, Ghost Snap AR, Zombies, Run! and AR Invaders.

Advertising and promotion

What we like
  • Eliminates the need for special equipment.

  • Quickly find the best businesses near you.

  • Powerful marketing tool.

What we don’t like
  • Consumes mobile phone battery power.

  • Mobile data required.

  • May cause distracting movement or walking.

Layar Reality Browser is an iPhone and Android app designed to show the world around you by displaying real-time digital information combined with the real world. It uses the camera on your mobile device to magnify your reality. Using the GPS location feature on your mobile device, the Layar app retrieves data based on where you are and displays that data on your mobile screen. Details of popular places, structures and movies are covered by Layar. Street views show the names of restaurants and businesses superimposed on their windows.

Early use of AR

What would an NFL football game be like without a yellow down line painted on the field? Emmy award-winning Sportvision introduced this augmented reality feature to football in 1998 and the game has never been the same. Fans watching from home know when a team enters the field before the fans in the stadium, and the players appear to be following a line drawn on the field. The yellow line down is an example of augmented reality.

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