Augmented reality, or AR, is a technological development that has the power to revolutionize the way in which we consume media, shop, and perceive the world around us. If you have read Fahrenheit 451, you will perhaps recognize the concept of AR from the three-sided, walled enclosures that participants would sit in to feel as if they are a part of a television show.
AR presents a unique opportunity to meld the digital and physical worlds, and create something powerful and creative. However, AR is not necessarily brand new – it has been around for a while and promises are continually being made that it will be the ‘next big thing’, while most people have not yet actually used the technology. So, is AR all that it is meant to be?
What is AR?
To start at the beginning, it is necessary to define what AR really is. AR stands for augmented reality and is used to refer to an interactive experience of an environment in which objects in the real world are enhanced using digital technology. This technology sometimes presents across multiple senses, including visual, auditory, touch, and smell, and movements such as vibrations, forces, or motions.
An example of AR that many will be familiar with is the IKEA Place app, which allows users with a smartphone to select an item of household furniture from their catalog and then place it among existing furniture in their environment. Models are presented in 3D and are true to scale, so a potential buyer will be able to accurately judge how their selection will suit the surroundings.
Snapchat filters are another form of AR. They plaster a digital asset over a real-world object and distort, mimic or replace it.
Some e-commerce retailers have also started to incorporate simple AR systems into their platforms to help consumers make difficult shopping decisions. For example, glasses companies that offer virtual try-on services, and platforms selling cosmetics, which allow users to test out different colors, are useful and simple AR implementations.
AR versus VR
AR is very similar to VR, or virtual reality, technology. The most important difference is that VR is a simulated experience that is fully divorced from the real-world environment in which the user resides. This is why VR goggles are full coverage, and explains why there are so many videos of gamers trying VR games and falling over or accidentally hitting their friends. The difference between AR and VR is that in VR, there is no digital overlay – instead, the user is immersed in a fully digital experience.
While it may seem like VR is primarily for gaming purposes, it actually has been successfully implemented by a number of major corporations. For example, VR has been used to provide next-level employee safety training in industrial companies such as BP and ExxonMobil, as it helps participants to feel like they are really in potential danger and leads them to assess the risks and challenges at the moment. VR has also been used by some of the more innovative companies as a way to pitch products and market a new projects. There is nothing quite like VR to provide an all-encompassing “wow factor” for a new product.
Alongside the examples already given, there is a range of different industry applications for AR that are set to revolutionize the way we consume media and buy products. One of the most interesting applications is in the online gambling and sports betting industry. AR and VR have advanced to the point that there could soon be VR casinos for players to digitally enter, which could allow gamblers to feel as if they are gambling in a fantasy casino or in any casino throughout history.
Current live casino games are similar to AR and VR games in that they merge digital and real-world applications for a unified playing experience. The live casino at SkyCity games includes classic table games such as poker, baccarat, and blackjack, along with more creative games such as Candyland Bonanza, Deal or No Deal, and Monopoly Live.
The future of AR
While it has taken some time for AR technology to mature, develop and find its feet, it is now growing incredibly quickly. One report found that the number of mobile AR users is expected to reach over 800 million in the next few years alone. As technology evolves and changes, the rate of adoption is likely to accelerate.
The technology has had a slow start, but you are sure to see the incorporation of AR into a wide range of different commercial and social uses over the next few years.