Augmented Reality (AR): Prospects and the Future of Technology

Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty (AR) is one of the most promis­ing tech­nolo­gies of the 21st cen­tu­ry. Scope of appli­ca­tion — almost every­where: from the gam­ing indus­try to med­i­cine. Few peo­ple know, but the his­to­ry of aug­ment­ed real­i­ty (AR — aug­ment­ed real­i­ty) began in 1961. Every year the tech­nol­o­gy improves and is already becom­ing a famil­iar and use­ful tool, and not just an impres­sive toy.
Augmented Reality (AR): Prospects and the Future of Technology
Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty (AR). Pho­to: pix­abay

To begin with, let’s explain what aug­ment­ed real­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy (AR — aug­ment­ed real­i­ty) is. It is often con­fused with vir­tu­al real­i­ty (VR — vir­tu­al real­i­ty).

It’s pret­ty easy to under­stand the dif­fer­ence. Vir­tu­al real­i­ty con­sists only of unre­al objects cre­at­ed in the pro­gram.

Putting on a VR hel­met, you com­plete­ly find your­self in an arti­fi­cial­ly cre­at­ed world.



Aug­ment­ed real­i­ty is when unre­al, vir­tu­al, objects in the user’s per­cep­tion become part of the real sur­round­ing pic­ture of the world.

In oth­er words, when a per­son sees some­thing in AR, they see some­thing vir­tu­al in the real world. The dis­play shows the user the phys­i­cal world with added vir­tu­al objects. For exam­ple, a map mark­er in the cam­era inter­face on the phone — to show which direc­tion to move the user. There are already head­sets out there that actu­al­ly bring an app or game into the real world. More advanced AR sys­tems allow walls in a user’s home to be treat­ed as if they were apps on a com­put­er screen.

From “Sensorama” to applications on the iPhone

Researchers have been devel­op­ing aug­ment­ed real­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy for more than a year. In 1961, cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er Mor­ton Heilig intro­duced an immer­sive mul­ti-sen­sor device that resem­bled a kind of arcade game with vibra­tion and play­back of stereo sounds. The fol­low­ing year, Heilig received a patent for the world’s first vir­tu­al sim­u­la­tor called “Sen­so­ra­ma”. A huge device, sim­i­lar in appear­ance to the slot machines of the 1980s, allowed the view­er to immerse them­selves in vir­tu­al real­i­ty for the first time: for exam­ple, ride a motor­cy­cle through the streets of Brook­lyn. How­ev­er, investors were not inter­est­ed in “Sen­so­ra­ma” and the devel­op­ment had to be cur­tailed.

The next stage in the devel­op­ment of tech­nol­o­gy is con­sid­ered to be 1974, when com­put­er spe­cial­ist Myron Krueger devel­oped an “arti­fi­cial real­i­ty” lab­o­ra­to­ry called Video­place. It con­sist­ed of sev­er­al rooms con­nect­ed by a net­work, each of which had a large screen with a video pro­jec­tor locat­ed behind it. When a per­son entered a room, he saw on the screen his own image in the form of a prim­i­tive sil­hou­ette, as well as sim­i­lar sil­hou­ettes of peo­ple in oth­er rooms. All “shad­ows” could be changed in col­or or size, as well as attach var­i­ous visu­al objects to them.

Per­haps the ideas of Krueger and his friends prompt­ed sci­en­tist Tom Cau­dall to first pro­pose the term “aug­ment­ed real­i­ty” in 1990. While work­ing for Boe­ing Com­put­er Ser­vices in Seat­tle, he used the phrase to refer to a dig­i­tal head-mount­ed dis­play used by air­craft elec­tri­cians who blend­ed vir­tu­al graph­ics with phys­i­cal real­i­ty.

In 1992, the first oper­a­tional AR sys­tem began to be used by the US Air Force. It was called “Vir­tu­al Lights” and made it pos­si­ble to cre­ate a new method of train­ing pilots. By over­lay­ing phys­i­cal­ly real objects onto 3D vir­tu­al ones, the first true aug­ment­ed real­i­ty expe­ri­ence was born, pro­vid­ing pic­ture, sound and touch.

Around the same time, a pre­sen­ta­tion of the KARMA sys­tem (“Assis­tant in Aug­ment­ed Real­i­ty”) took place at Colum­bia State Uni­ver­si­ty, which allows you to see an inter­ac­tive print­er main­te­nance man­u­al through a vir­tu­al real­i­ty hel­met.

But until 1999, aug­ment­ed real­i­ty was not wide­ly used, and was not even under­stood by many sci­en­tists and researchers. For its work, com­plex soft­ware solu­tions and bulky equip­ment were used. How­ev­er, the sit­u­a­tion changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly when Japan­ese pro­fes­sor Hirokazu Kato of the Nara Insti­tute of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy released a unique piece of soft­ware called ARToolK­it. It made it pos­si­ble to track video cap­ture of actions in the real world and com­bine them with vir­tu­al objects. The secu­ri­ty could be asso­ci­at­ed with a sim­ple hand­held device such as a cam­era and an inter­net con­nec­tion. The appear­ance of ARToolK­it has led to the fact that now users can see direct­ly the process of aug­ment­ed real­i­ty.

Already in 2000, Bruce Thomas from the Wear­able Com­put­er Lab devel­oped the first mobile game for open space with an aug­ment­ed real­i­ty sys­tem, called ARQuake. It allowed the user with an attached dig­i­tal dis­play on their head to turn their head and see oth­er objects in the vir­tu­al world. ARQuake was suc­cess­ful­ly pre­sent­ed at the Inter­na­tion­al Mobile Com­put­ing Sym­po­sium.

AR still has an amazing wow factor.  Photo: Ronen Tivony/ZUMAPRESS.com
AR still has an amaz­ing wow fac­tor. Pho­to: Ronen Tivony/ZUMAPRESS.com

A few years lat­er in 2008, the first AR apps were cre­at­ed for smart­phones, and peo­ple around the world were able to expe­ri­ence the lat­est tech­nol­o­gy for the first time. The first app was for Android users, and it allowed them to use their cam­eras to see dif­fer­ent VR objects on the screen in 3D. The solu­tion soon appeared on the iPhone, and launched as a nav­i­ga­tion appli­ca­tion called Wik­i­tude Dri­ve.



Noise from Nothing or Really Useful Technology?

While aug­ment­ed real­i­ty has been try­ing to get into the tech main­stream for years, many of its most ardent pro­po­nents have begun to won­der if it can han­dle its own poten­tial.

Many researchers believe that in fact, the tech­nol­o­gy has already begun to show its true val­ue by sim­pli­fy­ing many things that con­sumers are used to. For exam­ple, there are already hair and cloth­ing apps wide­ly used in the beau­ty indus­try; in the auto­mo­tive sec­tor, where users can now use aug­ment­ed real­i­ty to immerse them­selves in the dri­ving expe­ri­ence of the car they want to own.

Some brands, such as Lego and Juras­sic World, are already exper­i­ment­ing with the tech­nol­o­gy, and note that its poten­tial impact on audi­ences is huge.

Go beyond the wow factor

AR still has an amaz­ing wow fac­tor. It worked per­fect­ly with Poke­mon Go, which still has mil­lions of play­ers find­ing, cap­tur­ing and train­ing vir­tu­al crea­tures that appear on the screen as if they were in the same real place as the play­er.

Lead­ing brands and retail­ers such as Sepho­ra, Nestlé and Jaguar Land Rover have shown par­tic­u­lar lead­er­ship in this area. They’ve exper­i­ment­ed with using AR to pro­vide per­son­al­ized advice, ori­gin infor­ma­tion, or val­ue-added ser­vices for their prod­ucts, result­ing in suc­cess­ful, inspir­ing cam­paigns that go far beyond con­ven­tion­al games.

And, for exam­ple, Ikea has ful­ly inte­grat­ed AR into its app, which allows users to check out how fur­ni­ture might look in their homes. Con­fec­tionery brand Cad­bury has used aug­ment­ed real­i­ty to improve the Christ­mas gift cal­en­dar for its con­sumers. Choco­late lovers can use the Blip­par app to scan their cal­en­dar and enter an “aug­ment­ed world of win­ter won­der­land”.

Inter­est in AR con­tin­ues to grow expo­nen­tial­ly. Now it is also fueled by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, which allows cam­eras to “under­stand” the world and over­lay dig­i­tal con­tent on it. Com­bined with equip­ment becom­ing more pow­er­ful and lighter, the com­ing years will be key for the devel­op­ment of aug­ment­ed real­i­ty.

The best vir­tu­al real­i­ty glass­es for a com­put­er

“Kom­so­mol­skaya Prav­da” test­ed head­sets with the effect of full immer­sion

“Big Brother, Big Fruit, and the Big Blue Screen of Death”

The great­est inter­est in AR is among the largest tech­nol­o­gy giants — Google, Apple and Microsoft. Thanks to their finan­cial resources and devel­op­ment staff, they are the clos­est to cre­at­ing tru­ly mass-pro­duced prod­ucts using aug­ment­ed real­i­ty.

Smart aug­ment­ed real­i­ty glass­es Google Glass were intro­duced rel­a­tive­ly recent­ly — in 2012. After the pre­sen­ta­tion, pro­to­types of the device were released to devel­op­ers, and a long process of test­ing the prod­uct began. For a wide audi­ence, Google Glass glass­es became avail­able in May 2014. Their price at that time was $1,500.

Despite the inno­v­a­tive­ness, after a few years it became clear that the Google smart glass­es project had failed and sales of the device had to be cur­tailed. There are sev­er­al rea­sons for this: data pri­va­cy scan­dals (accord­ing to Google’s terms of use and pri­va­cy pol­i­cy, the sounds and images that the Google Glass device records are not the prop­er­ty of the per­son wear­ing the glass­es) and price posi­tion­ing, which final­ly “killed” the device. How­ev­er, Google con­tin­ues to devel­op in the field of AR. First of all, this con­cerns the Project Tan­go aug­ment­ed real­i­ty com­put­ing plat­form. With it, the devel­op­ers plan to give mobile devices a human under­stand­ing of space and move­ment.



Apple’s mer­its in the AR indus­try are still mod­est, but the com­pa­ny con­tin­ues to “keep its fin­ger on the pulse.” The main achieve­ment of the com­pa­ny is the ARK­it aug­ment­ed real­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy, which allows rec­og­niz­ing the dimen­sions of real objects and tak­ing into account light­ing con­di­tions in order to inte­grate vir­tu­al objects into real life as reli­ably as pos­si­ble. The iOS-com­pat­i­ble tech­nol­o­gy could become the most main­stream aug­ment­ed real­i­ty plat­form in the world, giv­en the inter­est in the com­pa­ny’s prod­ucts. In response to the spread of ARK­it, experts expect fur­ther pro­mo­tion of Microsoft HoloLens mixed real­i­ty glass­es and Google Tan­go aug­ment­ed real­i­ty tech­nol­o­gy.

Microsoft is also strug­gling to build aug­ment­ed real­i­ty as a plat­form for the future of mobile tech­nol­o­gy. The com­pa­ny has com­bined vir­tu­al and aug­ment­ed worlds for users, cre­at­ing what may be the first glimpse of mixed real­i­ty thanks to the Microsoft HoloLens head­set. They dif­fer from oth­er aug­ment­ed real­i­ty devices in that they have adopt­ed the abil­i­ty to track the small­est move­ments of the user’s head from VR hel­mets. The process takes place using a con­ven­tion­al gyro­scope and accelerom­e­ter and allows not only to speed up data pro­cess­ing in spe­cial cas­es, but also to sup­ple­ment ges­ture con­trol.

Interest in AR continues to grow exponentially.  Photo: globallookpress.com
Inter­est in AR con­tin­ues to grow expo­nen­tial­ly. Pho­to: globallookpress.com

In addi­tion, Microsoft has con­tin­ued to devel­op the Win­dows Mixed Real­i­ty plat­form, announced as part of the Win­dows 10 oper­at­ing sys­tem, for sev­er­al years now. Accord­ing to the devel­op­ers, it pro­vides a “holo­graph­ic expe­ri­ence” in mixed real­i­ty with com­pat­i­ble hel­mets. Prob­a­bly, the com­pa­ny expects that with the devel­op­ment of AR, users will need a uni­fy­ing inter­face and a com­mon plat­form.

Applications of AR

In edu­ca­tion, AR can be used to recre­ate his­tor­i­cal events or read ordi­nary books in 3D pro­jec­tions. Aug­ment­ed real­i­ty is extreme­ly use­ful for edu­ca­tors in class­room set­tings or dur­ing pre­sen­ta­tions and allows stu­dents to gain a deep­er under­stand­ing of a par­tic­u­lar top­ic. An exam­ple of already imple­ment­ed tech­nolo­gies is the Japan­ese appli­ca­tion New Hori­zon, which, using the built-in cam­eras of a smart­phone, shows ani­mat­ed char­ac­ters on the right pages direct­ly in edu­ca­tion­al books.

Anoth­er area of ​​appli­ca­tion of AR is health­care. The ARnato­my app is already help­ing future doc­tors explore a real skele­tal mod­el, and the VA-ST visu­al aid is being used by peo­ple with sig­nif­i­cant visu­al loss. It cre­ates out­lines of the con­tours of the face of the inter­locu­tor.

The mil­i­tary is also inter­est­ed in tech­nol­o­gy. The Amer­i­can com­pa­ny BAE Sys­tems has devel­oped a hel­met called Strik­er II, which uses a kind of visor with a dis­play instead of glass­es. An image from a night vision cam­era is pro­ject­ed onto it, and the device is able to track the move­ments of the oper­a­tor’s head. So the data is always locat­ed in the direc­tion of the user’s gaze.

The best vir­tu­al real­i­ty glass­es for smart­phones

A selec­tion of expen­sive and bud­get tech­nolo­gies for a smart­phone

Anoth­er Amer­i­can com­pa­ny, Mat­ter­port, uses AR to cre­ate a vir­tu­al real estate mar­ket.

But, of course, the main dri­vers of AR, like many oth­er tech­nolo­gies, are the giants Apple, Google and Microsoft. They are active­ly invest­ing in AR to make the tech­nol­o­gy more effi­cient and acces­si­ble to bil­lions of smart­phone users.

In an inter­view, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “AR will be as impor­tant as eat­ing three meals a day.” And recent­ly, Face­book also unveiled plans for dig­i­tal­ly mod­el­ing 3D objects on the social net­work so that users can tru­ly immerse them­selves in surf­ing the news feed and chat­ting with friends.