What is “Augmented Reality”?

Augmented Reality (AR) is the overlaying of virtual data on/in the physical world.

Wikipedia defines it as:

a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with-, or augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality.

Jim Vallino defines it similarly:

It is a combination of the real scene viewed by the user and a virtual scene generated by the computer that augments the scene with additional information.

As a concept, AR has been with us for many years (decades).  Who hasn’t seen movies (e.g. Terminator, Minority Report) where computer data is represented over a view of the real world.  Science Fiction writers like Peter Hamilton and Bruce Sterling have embraced and developed the concept massively.  The military has used “heads up displays” for years.

Several existing technologies combine to create augmented reality.  Obviously, GPS, mobile computing devices, digital cameras, digital compasses, motion sensors and mobile internet are important components to facilitate an AR world.  However, content is the biggest factor in providing useful experiences to users.  The aggregation of addresses and landmarks (e.g. Google MapsGeoNames) has been a good starting point.  Start adding utilities, social media, image and facial recognition, and gaming, and watch as the technology becomes ubiquitous.

Now, AR is about to hit the big time.  Devices, systems, and content have finally reached a state where the combination of technologies can provide a rich and fulfilling experience of AR.  The result is that AR will be adopted by consumers, industry, technology companies, artists, scientists, media, and governments alike.  It will be truly astounding.

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  1. September 17th, 2009
  2. September 24th, 2009
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