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Augmented Reality: What is it and How does it Work?

Updated: Jul 27, 2022


To many, the concept of “Augmented Reality” can sound like magic, alchemy, or some other fantastical leap of the imagination. In reality, recent advancements in technology have pushed the fabric of our reality to the point where we can simply stitch additions of our own design to it now. AR technology and the companies innovating in this space have lofty visions for this next layer of reality, but what does that mean? How does it work, and what will it actually look like?

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality (AR) describes an interactive experience with a real-world environment wherein the objects have been enhanced via computer-generated perceptual information across multiple sensory modalities. Whew, that’s a mouthful. Simply put, you are still viewing your immediate surroundings while immersed in AR, however you will be able to see and interact with virtual aspects of it that have been added through 3D visual renderings, audio, haptic perception, touch or smell.

This immersive experience can be defined as a combination of three crucial elements: A convergence of real and virtual worlds, real-time interactions, and accurate 3D mapping of both real and virtual objects. The applications of this AR experience are wide-ranging and can be as nuanced as virtual cosmetic upgrades to your appearance or as complex as visual GPS navigation and interior design. These enhancements are viewable through the lenses of smartphones or special wearables such as Google Glass.

The hands-free convenience and magical feel to making things appear and disappear from your field of view at-will usually has to be experienced to be believed. From the outside looking in, someone interacting with augmented reality technology can look as silly as the pioneers of hands-free Bluetooth calling did once upon a time; complete with the exaggerated gestures and speaking commands into thin air to seemingly nobody. From the inside looking out, though, living in a world without augmentation might start to seem dull.

Literally and metaphorically, augmented reality technology creates doors from thin air and then grants us the commands needed to open them. On the other side of these doors awaits endless possibilities, from interactive virtual pets to hands-free everything, virtual cloud-based televisions that can be resized and pinned to any surface, music and sound effects pinned to locations with spatial audio, invisible books waiting to be plucked from non-existent floating bookshelves, and more; our creativity will play a large role in shaping the future of augmented reality.

The Future of Augmented Reality

The world around us is changing rapidly, layered with supplemental new technologies every day which serve to make our daily lives easier or more enjoyable. As the Metaverse continues to gain traction, it’s clear there will be a place and purpose for both AR and VR technologies. The two will likely even compete over market dominance for a while, until the right balance is struck.

While VR may have captured the public interest most recently, all signs point to AR technology still having gas in the tank, with some even insisting that it’s the only viable vision for the metaverse. Time will tell, and as virtual voyagers we will keep our sights locked on all the important developments going forward in this augmented space. Stay tuned!

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