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Augmented reality: what it is, how it works, examples

Augmented reality a.k.a AU gives the interactive experience to the users of the real-world environment where the real world’ objects reside and enhanced by the perceptual information which is generated by computers. It is also the integration and strengthening of the possibilities that are offered to us by our five senses with high-tech devices.

The practical examples are Smart glasses like Google Glass or gesture control devices like Myo Armband, a hi-tech bracelet that allows you to remotely control PCs, tablets, smartphones, drones and robots are a case of "integrated", enhanced reality. In short, when we ask ourselves what augmented reality is we are doing nothing but discussing our daily interactions - human and between us and machines - enriched thanks to increasingly sophisticated electronic devices.


Virtual reality and augmented reality, what distinguishes them?


The augmented reality should not be confused with virtual reality. The latter creates an artificial environment, built on the computer, and makes it credible by using technologies that give the feeling to those who use them to find themselves immersed in that scenario. Think for example of flight simulators or visors for 3D games and movies.

The augmented reality starts from what is around us, it already exists, but it is modified with the addition of animations and digital contents that allow having a deeper knowledge of the environment that surrounds us.

If virtual reality is therefore an artificial reality, augmented reality can be defined as an "enriched" reality.

Augmented reality, what it is: some examples


The augmented reality is likely in the next few years to change our habits, our way of seeing the world. A silent revolution that is producing interesting, visible results - it is appropriate to say this - already in different sectors: from medicine to the military, from sport to marketing, from tourism to entertainment. But not only: augmented reality it also helps us in carrying out normal daily activities such as driving a car. There are "enhanced" satellite navigators that use a smartphone's camera, pointed at the road, to provide us with real-time information on traffic, the presence of speed cameras and places of interest. The road signs that appear directly on the windshield of the car, without distracting the driver are nothing more than augmented reality.


Here's what happens on this off-road vehicle. Not only additional indications like those on the speed and inclination of the vehicle while facing a slope but also the bonnet of the car that appears transparent to us, allowing us to see the road at all times, even that portion that is normally “obscured” by the front of our car.

Augmented reality, what is a smart glass?


The latest generation of smartphones is just one example of devices that support augmented reality. In truth, the accessory that is most often cited when we talk about augmented reality is the "smart" glasses, better known as smart glasses. Like the now-famous Google Glass, real wearable computers on which you can read emails, SMS of our smartphone, directions to reach a destination or with which we can take a picture, shoot a video or surf the Internet. The Google Glass can be controlled only with the voice, as indeed other competing for smart glasses: from the Microsoft Hololens lenses (we'll talk better later) to the Smart Eyeglass from Sony via Epson's smart glasses, to name a few.

Augmented reality enters the operating room


Smart glasses have already been tested in the operating room and in the future, they could be widely used in the field of robotic surgery, which is already a form of augmented reality.

The advantages deriving from their use are different: from the recording of the intervention for educational purposes to the monitoring of the vital parameters of the patient, up to the possibility of requesting a consultation in real-time from a colleague surgeon who is on the other side of the world.

The surgical application is for Myo Armband, the smart bracelet that allows you to control digital devices of various kinds using only your arms and hands. In this way, during an operation, it will be possible for example to consult the medical record or other useful information on the operation to be performed without leaving the operating table.

Sport and augmented reality, what is the Hawk-eye


The augmented reality plays an important role - at times even decisive for the final result - even in sports. For some years now, in tennis and recently in football too, the Hawk-eye has been introduced, from the English word "falcon's eye", a system that allows verifying and eventually correcting an arbitrator's decision instantly. How does it work? Through several cameras positioned in different corners of the system, the trajectory of the ball is reconstructed to see if it has ended up outside the tennis court or if - in the case of football - it has crossed the goal line. However, the Hawk-eye is not foolproof and has a margin of error of some millimeters.

Augmented reality museum, what it is?


The augmented reality assists you even when you are on vacation. If you are in a city of art and the itinerary chosen by your guide does not satisfy you, know that there are museums that you can visit with augmented reality viewers or through dedicated software for smartphones and tablets. In this way, by pointing the device towards the work you are interested in, you can access a series of detailed information, usually of a historical and stylistic nature, which is normally reserved only for professionals.

Holograms, between augmented reality and virtual reality

What we have just seen are just a few examples that explain how augmented reality is changing the way we live. As augmented reality enters our lives it becomes a simple reality. It will also be so with holograms. It's hard to say if it's more augmented or virtual. A hologram is a three-dimensional reconstruction in the space of images of objects or living beings.

The holograms can be used for educational, entertainment or medical purposes. Imagine a surgeon who visualizes the patient's organs before surgery thanks to a hologram. An intervention that maybe will be carried out, thanks to robotic surgery.

In the field there are several projects on which multinationals like Samsung or Google are working. Holograms are halfway between virtual reality and augmented reality. They are a mixed reality because they are integrated into our world. They are and move in our dimension.

Augmented reality: the sectors in which it can be used

Augmented reality can be used in many sectors to improve work processes. For example it can be useful for technical assistance and remote maintenance, for training, for design, in marketing, to improve safety at work, for physical rehabilitation. There are many applications of augmented reality, just use your imagination. For exampleAugmented reality, the Aprilia motorcycle company will use it to improve bike preparation.


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