Augmented reality has been around for a lot longer than people think. At its most basic, augmented reality (or AR) is just layering some virtual information over reality. When you look at the score of a football match in the top corner of your TV screen, you are using augmented reality. The score tracker is a virtual element overlaid on the real match.
Of course, AR is growing very fast and now encompasses the ability to automatically layer information over a live video feed, such as one from your phone. This makes AR an amazingly versatile tool that has applications ranging across industries and has the potential to change how we all interact with the world.
What can AR be used for?
AR is still in its infancy so games are still forming the core of most augmented reality innovation. But with the current ability to translate text when you point your phone at it or to see how furniture would fit into your home before purchasing, there are nearly unlimited ways in which adding a layer of information over reality is being used.
Big companies like Apple and Samsung are investing heavily in AR capabilities so that we can all experience great AR on our phones. While currently we’re limited to pointing our smartphones at the world to act as our AR interface, one day we might be able to get all this information from our glasses or even contact lenses.
Top augmented reality apps currently available
There are now a large number of AR apps on the market, but here are our top three for you to try out to get a feel for the technology.
Skyview lets you point your smartphone at the stars and it tells you what constellations you are looking at as well as pointing out the planets and famous satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope or the International Space Station. Download Skyview on iOS.
The Google Translate app doesn’t just let you type in text to be translated, but it also allows you to use your camera to translate text from 38 different languages. You can simply point your phone at a sign or menu and have it translate right before your eyes. Download Google Translate for Android.
Still the most popular AR game out there, Pokémon Go lets you explore your local area and find Pokémon that you can catch and fight with. The app finds different locations that suit the Pokémon type (such as water types near lakes) so you have an incentive to explore different areas to “catch ‘em all”. Download for iOS or Android.
Future applications of AR
We see great things coming in the future for augmented reality, with the hardware getting better and better and software innovations happening every day we can see this becoming hugely important.
It could easily be used to provide tutorials – showing you how to fit your flat-pack furniture together – or used in meetings to collaborate on documents that seem to hover in the air before you. Or why not for video calls? You could have a conversation with someone that truly feels like they are in the room with you.
While these options could be some time off yet, we might see this technology maturing faster than you’d think. So, watch out for AR as we’re sure it’s going to change the world!