Augmented Reality (AR) – you almost certainly know what it is already, but to make sure we are talking about the same thing – involves overlaying reality with digital information that enhances or informs our experience. Head-up displays on car windscreens and fighter pilots’ s helmets; Snapchat geo-filters; enhanced sightseeing tours of cities where you point your phone at a building and read about its history are just a few examples. The concept isn’t new; early ventures date to the late-1960s, but over recent years the technology has been evolving apace.
The advance of AR hasn’t always gone smoothly. Google Glass, the innovative smart camera and head-up display didn’t work out as planned. Eventually, it was withdrawn from the consumer market, though an enterprise edition lingers on and has recently seen an update. But despite an occasional failure, AR continues to march onwards, and some of its innovations are spectacular; literally, life-changing. Here are 10 ways AR may change your life.
AR will take an increasingly crucial role in education at all levels, from primary through to professional. AR makes learning fun and information easier to understand and retain. AR classrooms add a new dimension to the learning process introducing an element of fun to appeal to younger students. AR labs can replace physical experiments that would otherwise use expensive and potentially dangerous equipment. AR permits students to work at a personal pace appropriate to their skills and knowledge, providing instant feedback on their performance and the distance learning experience is significantly enhanced.
Young people are already highly adept at technology, so rolling out AR in educational settings is highly efficient and immediately effective. It will change the way we learn.
AR is making a massive impact on the entertainment industry. Media of all kinds become more realistic, more interactive, more immersive, and more exciting. VR headsets will allow individuals to customise their own viewing experience overlaying the information they choose to enhance their experience. Games such as Pokémon GO blend the real and virtual worlds to create an additional dimension in which people can interact.
In music VR allows us to discover more about the artists we listen to, read and decipher lyrics, and, in the future, share some of the performers’ experiences from their point of view, for instance, discover what it feels like to perform in a packed arena.
AR will become a game changer in live sports. We will have instant access to live statistics on any player in real time; get closer to the gameplay; share the experience of hitting a six in an international tournament. But it’s not only the spectator experience that will be enhanced; VR training apps will allow us to improve our golf strokes quickly; hone our racket performance and perfect our backhand, and perhaps allow us to connect directly with a trainer who will guide our practice sessions and help us improve our technical skills.
Endurance sport and marathon performance would be improved by access to information on competitors and track conditions as well as head up information on our current vital functions such as heart rate, respiration and oxygen saturation level.
AR is increasingly making its presence felt in many aspects of tourism. Many hotels already provide virtual room tours, and some are already providing additional virtual concierge services where guest can discover local information, book tours and theatres by pointing their phones as local area maps. When wandering around foreign cities, AR will instantly translate those hard-to-decipher signs and posters.
AR will also go a long way in banishing the boredom from must-see visitor attractions, museums and galleries. The experience traipsing round endless sites and museums where the only information is sparse and hidden by all the other tourist tourists will be replaced by lively immersive displays that will bring the exhibits and artefacts to life.
5. Road transport
Autonomous cars are now on the horizon and will soon be heading your way once some pressing technical and philosophical questions have been answered. Though even before they roll off the production line, auto manufacturers are increasingly combining AR and artificial intelligence to create enhanced driving experiences. Some developments include dashboard and projected windscreen AR displays, around the corner vision, hazard identification, and many other features designed to improve driver and passenger safety.
AI and AR-based intelligent transportation systems are being developed to provide efficient management of real-time traffic using on-vehicle sensors and data sharing between vehicles, the infrastructure network and pedestrians. This will lead to reduced congestion, increased safety, and enhanced driver information. Eventually, all this will be rolled out to and will incorporate autonomous vehicles.
AR holds the promise of a better and longer life for all of us. Growing and ageing populations are putting intolerable strains on healthcare systems across the world. There are not enough doctors and nurses to go around. AR in the form of telemedicine is a breakthrough technology that allows doctors to examine patients wherever they are located, and even perform procedures robotically.
AR also allows health care practitioners increase the standard of day to day patient care; improving accurate diagnosis, providing a 3D rendering of body organs, assisting with minor and major procedures, and empowering patients to take an increased role in their own habitation.
With AR, shopping will never be the same again. See a dress you like but don’t want to try on in the fitting rooms, then try it on virtually using your phone or a life-size store display; it makes shopping so much easier. And if you don’t want to visit the High Street; you can try on all the fashions at home in full 3D. Similarly, you can use AR to check if that new sofa will look right in your sitting room and what colour scheme works for you.
Retailers will furnish you with personalised offers as you wander around the store; you will be able to access customer reviews, check competitors’ prices, and compare with alternative brands. Shopping for big label items will also be enhanced with immediate access information on every aspect of your planned purchase.
8. Business and commerce
AR is making an impact on many areas of enterprise. Designers can quickly gain information on the appearance and function of their design concepts at an early stage of the design process with the ability to swiftly modify design parameters. Manufacturers can assess the performance of operations, identify problems, and fine-tune parameters. Rather than travel executives can hold virtual meetings that are far more realistic than today’s typical video conference call. Eventually, we might even see holographic meeting rooms of Star Trek quality. In the field, service engineers and your sales force will have instant access to detailed information and share their in-field experience visually with experts back in the factory.
9. Social media
AR may be the future of social media. It already has a significant impact on platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. In the future, we are likely to see AR virtual marketplaces on social media, sharing live events in real time, VR advertisers will increase their focus on social media.
The sharing of merged real-world, and virtual experiences is gaining popularity, and event planners are already taking note intending to move away from passive audiences to multiple sharing of 3D augmented experiences. Concerts, sports events, and gathering of all kinds will all feel very different as we increasingly share then with AR. Hopefully, they will be better and more fulfilling.
10. Assistance for the blind and partially sighted
AR has the potential to make life much better for the blind and partially sighted. For those with limited vision, AR glasses can help them identify and navigate obstacles effectively replacing the need for guide dogs. Additionally, headsets can be used to magnify surroundings colour-coding them to enable the wearer to interpret what they can see.
VR coupled to wearable headsets that provide sensory feedback can help those who are registered blind understand and navigate their environment leaving their hands free. Alternative sensory channels are also being investigated, for instance, linking up AR with the tongue, using it to see, with bone consultation and with skin enabling the subject to see with the sense of touch.