Augmented reality (not to be confused with virtual reality) superimposes audio and graphics onto real-world environments. A similar technique is used in sports broadcasts where a line is visually superimposed onto a football pitch to show if a player was offside. However, AR differs from this as these television broadcasts show the same image to everyone, whereas AR used on a smartphone or headset will give each individual user a unique augmented perspective. People often confuse augmented reality with virtual reality, but there is a distinction. VR creates an entirely new world for users to view and interact with, while AR alters or adds to the world around us.

What AR tech is currently in use?

The most famous example of AR is the is currently used in gaming apps, such as mobile game Pokemon Go, created by Niantic. This game allows you to explore the real world and superimposes images of Pokemon for you to catch in your local environment.

Another simple and commonly used form of AR is Snapchat filters, adding a top hat or other items to your selfie. While Snapchat pioneered the use of AR, other social media networks such as Instagram and Facebook are quickly following suit.

Gatwick Airport has released a passenger app, which allows users to navigate through the crowds and find their departure gate. By viewing the airport through your smartphone, superimposed arrows appear on the screen telling you which way to go.

What is the future of AR?

Augmented reality has the potential to change the way we live our lives and to disrupt a wide range of industries. Google is soon to release an AR version of its navigation and route planning maps app. This will allow users to view their surroundings while being given directions and information about local attractions. Apps are also being developed that will allow doctors to view wounds through smart glasses and instantly be able to make a diagnosis and determine what the best form of treatment is.

On the other hand, clothes companies will use AR to show you what you would look like in their outfits before you make a purchase. This will also work with furniture – you will see what a new piece of furniture will look like in your home and if it will fit the space available.

Photo: オランダ Tokyo, Japan by sndrv licensed under Creative Commons 4.0