Augmented Reality: The Future of “REAL”-TY?
WHAT IS AR?
The utilisation of information in the form of text, graphics, music, and other virtual upgrades merged with real-world items is known as Augmented Reality (AR).
The factor which differentiates AR from a simulation is that it instils value in the user's engagement with the real world.
LET’S GO BACK IN TIME
A cinematographer named Morton Heilig is considered to be the first person to achieve augmented reality to some extent in 1957. He created the Sensorama, which provided the spectator with images, sounds, vibrations, and smells. Of course, it wasn't computer-controlled, but it was the first attempt at enhancing an experience with additional data.
Louis Rosenberg's AR system, built at USAF Armstrong's Research Lab in 1992, was most likely the first fully functional system of this kind. Virtual Fixtures was a highly complicated robotic system created to compensate for the lack of high-speed 3D graphics processing power available in the early 1990s. It allowed for the overlay of sensory data on a workspace to boost human productivity.
INSTANCES WHERE “REALITY” GOT AUGMENTED
During the 2018 FIFA World Cup, football fans were given a unique way to show their support for their favourite team by adding 3D face masks to images and videos. Facebook's AR masks were used for the first time in an international sporting event.
Liam Payne's holographic performance at the BAFTAs (Annual award ceremony of the British Academy of Film & Television Arts) generated quite a stir. Liam's moves were translated into the avatar on people's phones through an AR experience presented to supporters through a mobile app called The Round before he took the BAFTA stage. It turns out that this was the first time a smartphone app was used to deliver a real-time augmented reality experience. Liam later interacted with the same avatar that was sent out through the app on stage during his BAFTA opening performance of "Midnight." Hence, he was essentially performing a duet...with himself.
Like these, we've seen a lot of augmented reality instances in the press over the last few years, and we've even tried it ourselves. As real as peanut butter, the world of augmented reality has finally arrived. Its capabilities, which had previously only been seen in science fiction films like HER, are now a scientific-backed reality in real life. It provides a more immersive experience by bringing virtual components into the real world via technology.
AR vs. VR
Most people's perceptions of Virtual Reality (VR) are shaped by The Matrix, a hugely successful 1999 film depicting a deceptively realistic virtual-reality future that was so similar to normal life that the main characters initially believed they were in a true simulation.
Virtual Reality is a computer-generated representation of an alternate universe or reality that is most commonly seen in 3D films and video games. Virtual reality uses computers and sensory devices like headsets and gloves to generate simulations that are designed to block out the outside world and envelope or "immerse" the viewer.
Despite being considered a sibling of VR, AR makes no pretence of creating a virtual environment. Unlike VR, AR is accessed through far more common equipment, such as mobile phones, and it superimposes pictures such as characters on top of a video or a camera viewer, which most consumers already own, making it much more practical for retail, games, and movies.
The physical world is combined with computer-generated virtual features in AR. These elements are then projected in real-time across actual surfaces within people's field of vision, to merge the two to improve one another.
SO, WHAT DOES THE AR HAVE IN STORE FOR US?
Augmented Reality as an emerging technology has already penetrated various facets of a multitude of industries of diverse specifications.
The paced dissemination of 5G as the connectivity medium, already accessible in more than 100 cities worldwide, providing high-speed data connectivity with low latency, will act as a catalyst to boost up the performance, manifold renders, and thus, a smooth adoption of AR Technology.
The recent collaborative venture of Facebook with Ray-Ban in introducing its first set of Smart Glasses depends heavily on this technology.
Apple has incorporated LiDAR (Light and Detection Ranging- essentially a sensor that measures depth) technology in their premium devices(starting with Ipad Pro's success in 2020) to pump up their AR capabilities, e.g. faster display with greater accuracy.
The New Normal blend of Hybrid Education and the skyrocketing demand for courses not limited to any particular institution(and, in general too) surely makes Augmented Reality an invaluable component to boost the efficiency of education simply by making it a more engaging and interactive experience for the learners.
Other than the regular courses/fields, it has proven to be of great use in non-conventional (say, artistic) areas of learning too. For example, the "Epic '' App launched by Guitar band Gibson", where the audio augmented reality will help the learners to hear themselves playing in a virtual band, making it a more intuitive and immersive process of practising and thus, mastering the skills. ABI estimates the value of AR in the education sector to be $ 5.3 billion by 2023.
The development of The Green Planet Augmented Reality App just showcases one of the diversified usages of AR technology. It is said to reconnect the users with Nature and remind them about the current threats to it. It is set to launch in 2022 as a complement to a BBC series of the same name.
There is more to it…
Augmented Reality is already jamming up the Gaming industry with its capability to provide the users with a wholesome experience. Remember Pokemon Go? The groundbreaking invention in the realm of mobile video games, released in 2016, received widespread acclaim, with 100 million downloads on Google Play in only one month! It's one of the best examples of Augmented Reality amid a vast array of others that have surfaced in the last few years.
Given the generations want to have a more customizable and interactive experience in gaming rather than flat structured play, this emerging tech. will have a big role to hop on.
Furthering the importance of technological intervention in medicinal breakthroughs, it is of no doubt that AR will have(and is having) a big role to play in surgeries to pull off operations with greater accuracy, as well as testing in terms of image and sensory technology, etc. For example, the Microsoft Hololens 2 can give surgeons information while allowing them to utilise both hands during surgery.
According to research by ARtillery Intelligence, it is estimated that at the end of 2020 there were a total of 598 million AR active devices which is projected to increase up to 1.73 billion by 2024. Its worth as an industry has been estimated at $26.75 billion for the year 2021 which is going to boost up to about $76 billion by the end of this decade.
SILVER LININGS ARE ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY CLOUDS…
With everything said and done and the prospective looking utterly promising, some aspects of it still need more clarity and time-
The usage and accessibility of the products and services will be associated with a high cost of creation, the question of environmental safety and other issues related to the 5G network is a huge area of concern given the fact that it will act as a major proponent for Augmented Reality in the coming future.
The further utility of AR, especially in medicine,(but not the only one) will depend heavily on the skill of the doctor, leaving a big space for liability in this case.
Also, there are currently no laws that inform businesses and consumers about the types of AR applications that can be utilized and how data can be processed. As a result, the technology can be used for nefarious purposes.
These, in totality, summarise the challenges and shortcomings which need to be addressed to make Augmented Reality as utilizable as the internet is nowadays.
IN THE END...
To end with an optimistic note, it won't be an exaggeration to say that AR is here to stay for good. And not only as an effective business tool but as equipment or medium in general, bearing the potential to change the course of daily life as well as transforming the global functional and operational structure forever.
Inclusive of all the hindrances, the path for this emerging manifold servicing technology is, for sure, uneven. Despite this, given the already changing facets in terms of industry usage and most sections of the aware consumers being positive of this, the path is for sure, directed upward, with the sky not being the limit this time.
Author: Abhradeep Goswami and Aagya Mehta
Illustration by: Chirag Rawat