Augmented Reality

AR is an emerging technology that is revolutionizing how businesses operate, serving as one of the cornerstones of the fourth industrial revolution while meeting business needs in unexpected ways.

AR uses the sensors on a device to gather information and model the physical world, before superimposing virtual elements for an engaging and interactive experience.


Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that projects digital information onto the real world around you, creating an artificial environment through images, videos and text that you see before your eyes. Devices used for AR may range from smartphones to sophisticated glasses from Google.

AR is most frequently seen being employed with smartphones and mobile apps, from filters that alter your photos to furniture placement apps that help visualize how a piece from Ikea will fit into your space. AR can even be seen being employed in museums by showing virtual views of Pompeii or other historical sites over real ones, to give visitors an experience similar to what ancient visitors would have encountered.

Marker-based AR, as the name suggests, relies on the presence of physical markers or triggers to initiate the augmented experience. These markers are usually visual patterns or codes that are recognized by AR devices or software. By scanning and recognizing these markers, the AR system can accurately position virtual objects in the real world. This method ensures precise tracking and alignment, enabling a more immersive and realistic AR experience.

In contrast to marker-based AR, markerless AR does not rely on physical markers to anchor virtual objects. Instead, it utilizes computer vision algorithms and advanced tracking techniques to recognize and track real-world objects or features. This approach allows virtual content to be placed and interacted with in a more dynamic and flexible manner.

Mixed reality (MR), an advanced form of augmented reality, marries imagination with reality in order to provide you with an engaging immersive experience allowing you to interact with both simultaneously. For example, giving a virtual character some real coffee during a video game, or showing a virtual car driving along real roads.

What Does It Do?

AR is an effective tool to add context, knowledge and virtual information on top of physical environments. This can be especially beneficial for tasks like product design, inspection and training.

Augmented reality can take many forms, from headsets like Microsoft HoloLens or Sony PlayStation VR, to smartphones, tablets and apps on mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and apps. At its core, AR involves superimposing digital content over physical objects, this is how first down lines appear superimposed over TV images of American gridiron football fields or tracking golf balls or hockey pucks on screens.

More advanced augmented reality technology uses cameras and sensors to understand the world around the user, similar to how the Magic Leap 2 works or other immersive experiences like holograms. More sophisticated devices such as the Magic Leap 2 utilize World Cameras, depth sensors, etc. in order to learn about its surroundings, in order to display behaviorally aware or contextually relevant content within view of wearers.

Utilizing this approach, you can imagine how a new piece of furniture or filling from the dentist will look in your home or office space, as well as how this might bridge sales and marketing content gaps for businesses.

AR is helping businesses increase productivity and enhance customer experiences, by helping employees complete tasks more quickly and safely, so they can focus on core competencies instead of manual, repetitive tasks. AR also facilitates training and development programs for process-driven roles by turning information from text-based or 2D images to easy-to-follow 3D guides.

How To Use It

AR experiences typically utilize sensors and cameras that capture real-world surroundings for processing by the computer, from smartphone cameras to more complex glasses such as Microsoft’s HoloLens.

Marker-based AR is often what first comes to mind when considering “augmented reality.” This form relies on visual markers in the real world to trigger digital content overlay. For instance, when pointed at the night sky with your smartphone camera or tablet’s camera lens, apps like Vito Technology’s Star Walk may display names of stars and planets superimposed over it, while Layar gathers user location data to provide useful details of nearby points of interest.

Superimposition-based AR is another widely used form. This type identifies specific objects or features in the real world and then superimposes relevant digital content over them, like at IKEA where customers can use AR to envision products in their home environments. Furthermore, electronic first-person shooter games often incorporate this form of AR to provide additional health or environmental data into player views.

Image recognition technology can also be used to detect edges of shapes and outline them in 3D.  This technique is commonly employed to display runway and street data on GPS navigation systems and in museums using projection mapping over existing objects and artifacts.

Augmented reality can help the work process in numerous ways in the workplace. For example, it can improve training by providing guided instructions and contextual annotation in real world environments, where new employees experience the process for the first time. Furthermore, AR can be used for remote assistance as well as providing annotated virtual models of product parts with instructions directly to field workers.

Augmented reality apps can boost in-person sales by allowing customers to experience products in their own environments and with their own equipment. Car dealerships, for instance, may use AR applications like BMW i Visualizer mobile apps to let potential buyers explore and configure their dream car prior to making a decision.

The Future

AR is all about creating experiences that blend in seamlessly with our physical environments, like an IKEA concept kitchen featuring an AR-enabled table that displays recipes as you add ingredients to your shopping list, or having access to a virtual makeup mirror in the comfort of your own home that allows you to try on different looks. AR also enables an entirely new level of visual storytelling and interaction.  Artists like Estella Tse are using it to create immersive experiences where users can converse with an android in the near future, or watch as it feeds off social media “likes”.

Since mobile devices are the primary way people access AR, businesses have found innovative ways to leverage it. While consumers still lack comfortable AR headsets, companies can create high-quality AR experiences for specific devices or users within a certain audience segment. Examples may include geospatial experiences tied to specific locations; or marker-based experiences where users identify objects or features which trigger an AR experience on top.

AR is widely utilized by industry for maintenance, operational control, and training purposes. For instance, using Microsoft HoloLens headsets, workers can receive remote assistance from engineers for troubleshooting or repairing equipment, without sending someone out personally to a job site. Furthermore, AR devices provide on-demand training materials which promote productivity and safety.

AR is experiencing rapid expansion in medical imaging and diagnostics. Google introduced an AR-enabled microscope in 2020 that allows doctors to more efficiently diagnose disease and plan treatments.  Johns Hopkins University physicians have already performed two surgeries using AR headsets, including one that fused three vertebrae together and removed a chordoma tumor from a patient’s spine.

With 3D modeling and mapping capabilities built directly into many smartphones, AR is taking off quickly. Experts expect it to play an integral part of life,from shopping and home design to education and healthcare. Authoring tools like Adobe Project Aero are enabling anyone to create custom AR experiences without complex coding knowledge needed, the possibilities seem almost limitless.

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