What is augmented reality? How is it different from VR and the Metaverse?

Immerse yourself in the fascinating world of Augmented Reality (AR) and explore how it works and various applications in different industries. Key technologies include computer vision, SLAM, tracking technologies, and a range of displays and optics. The AR process includes data collection, environment detection, content generation, alignment, rendering/display, and user interaction. AR’s applications span gaming, education, healthcare, architecture, and retail, enhancing user experiences and interactions in each area.

Augmented Reality: A Technological Breakdown

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that overlays computer-generated elements such as 3D models, animations, and text with the real world, enhancing the user’s perception and interaction with their surroundings. Key technologies enabling AR include:

1. Computer Vision: A subset of artificial intelligence, computer vision interprets visual data to recognize and track objects, surfaces, and markings, enabling precise placement of virtual objects.

SLAM, tracking technologies and displays

2. SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping): This technology maps and tracks the position of AR devices in real time, using sensor data from cameras, gyroscopes and accelerometers. It creates a 3D model of the environment and tracks movements.

3. Tracking Technologies: These technologies may be marker-based (using QR codes or fiducial markers), markerless (based on computer vision and feature recognition), or object-recognition-based (identifying specific objects).

4. Displays and optics: Devices such as smartphones, tablets, headsets and data glasses are used to display AR content. They use transparent or semi-transparent screens, projectors, holographic displays, lenses and mirrors to align and focus.

AR process and applications

The AR process involves six key steps: data collection, environment detection, content generation, alignment/registration, rendering/display, and user interaction. Real-time sensor data is collected via cameras, microphones, GPS and motion sensors. Computer vision and tracking technologies analyze this data and generate virtual content based on the environment and user context. Alignment algorithms and position tracking ensure seamless integration of virtual content, which is then rendered on screens, headsets or glasses. Users can interact with this content using gestures, voice commands, touch screens or other input devices, with additional feedback provided for a more immersive experience.

AR has found applications in diverse fields such as gaming and entertainment (e.g. Pokémon Go), education and training (interactive learning environments), healthcare and medicine (medical training, diagnosis and treatment), architecture and design (interactive and virtual presentations). complete solutions) and retail and e-commerce (virtual product try-ons and previews)[1].

Virtual Reality: A Contrast to AR

Virtual reality (VR) differs from AR in that it creates an immersive experience that isolates users from the real world, typically using a headset and headphones. VR involves all five senses and replaces the real world with new, computer-generated environments. VR offers three types of experiences: non-immersive, semi-immersive, and fully immersive experiences, each offering different levels of interaction and immersion.

The metaverse is on its way to being as real as ever

As technology advances, the possibilities that Metaverse offers expand, from digital twins of physical environments to educational platforms.

While AR adds digital elements to the real world, VR is used in various industries such as retail, automotive and gaming, offering virtual fitting rooms, showrooms and play zones.

The Metaverse: A step beyond AR and VR

The Metaverse is a virtual reality space that exists alongside the physical world and is accessible via the Internet, VR and AR technologies. The focus is on inclusivity and interoperability, with companies like NVIDIA, Epic Games and Enliven developing various Metaverse experiences, including digital twins of physical environments and educational platforms.

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