Augmented Reality (Abbreviation: AR) generally refers to the enlargement of the human perception of reality by information generated by a computer. An artificial second level is added to the natural environment that provides additional data in real-time.

This second level is usually generated by a mobile phone (iPhone, Android phones) or by a tablet computer (iPad). The display shows the reality section captured by the camera to which appropriate information and objects are added. These have the following characteristics:

  • They are related to the real world. The reality is augmented, not replaced – otherwise we would speak of virtual reality.
  • They cannot be perceived with the natural sensory organs.
  • They correspond exactly to the place where the user is located.
  • They are context-sensitive. The information is localized and selected – the user sees only what he needs to solve his problem.
  • They are interactive – the user can manipulate the data according to his requirements. For example: in addition to the automatically presented information, the user may request more detailed data describing a product he is especially interested in.
  • They are provided both visually and acoustically. The user can hear and see what the software provides.

Interaction with other People

Augmented Reality is not restricted to a single user who simply wants to obtain information about the environment, or who wants to place objects into the environment and manipulate them. It is possible to create virtual objects for other users, and, for example, leave messages on house walls or set huge posters into the sky. Such objects will remain and are visible to all users with the same equipment. It’s like an online computer game, with the difference that there is still a connection with reality.

Examples

Equipped with a smartphone, a user may start an inquiry for a new apartment. He walks through the desired area and directs the smartphone to the front of the buildings. An application (abbreviation: app) for real estate search provides the needed information in real time: an image of the road as seen by the user, whether suitable apartments are available, data about the flats and even the direction in which a further search promises the most success. If interested, the future apartment owner may retrieve detailed data about an object.

Such applications are based on a connection of GPS and compass data from the smartphone with a database that provides information about real estate. The app detects exactly where the future apartment owner is located and in what direction he looks. On this basis and in addition to the natural sensory perception appears the second level (of artificially added data): the user sees the same buildings on the smartphone as with the eye, but enriched with appropriate information. The reality is now extended (= augmented reality).

In addition to such apps that work with geographic data, there is another type of apps that recognize objects and react accordingly.

Let’s assume the owner enters his new, empty apartment and needs help to set it up. He places small-sized objects where he imagines furniture. These objects are known by the app and connected with data of furniture. If he points the camera to an object, the app reacts and, for example, places a wardrobe in front of the wall. The wardrobe can be modified in its properties (such as color, height, width). Again, the reality is extended: the camera provides a three dimensional duplicate of the apartment, that the owner can fill with virtual furniture.

Four weeks later. The owner, sitting in his newly furnished apartment, is content with life and wants to reward himself. In a magazine he discovers the advertisement for a watch. He cuts out the (paper)watch, attaches it to his wrist and directs his smartphone to it. The smartphone recognizes the object and displays the original watch in 3D at the wrist, just as it would look in reality. If he likes, the owner can retrieve all relevant information about the watch, and of course buy it immediately.

Location-based or Object-based Applications

As shown in the examples, there are two ways to create an augmented reality:

  • by location-based applications that work with geographic data, as shown in the example with the apartment search (location-based services)
  • by object-oriented applications that work with images, as shown in the examples with the furniture and the watch (image-based services)

Basis of such applications are mostly so-called Augmented Reality Browsers (ARB), such as junaio from the company Metaio, or layar from the company with the same name. They are available for iOS, Android and Symbian.

Links

Further information about augmented reality is available here: