What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented reality is a great illustration of futuristic technology that already existsIt changes user’s environment and makes a unique experience by placing virtual objects into our usual surroundings. The AR technology uses the real world to display information (in 2D or  3D), with which the user will be able to interact using the different types of electronic devices. So, let’s see how it works.

Augmented reality technologies

Optical tracking implies that your gadget’s camera becomes «eyes», while markers serve as «hands». The camera reads markers in the real world, then transfers them into a virtual environment and builds one layer of reality atop another in order to create augmented reality experience. There are two main methods for building AR:

  • Markerless tracking:

The markerless technology utilizes specific scanning algorithms. A virtual «grid» is projected on the image caught by your camera. An automatic scan finds several anchor points to pinpoint the exact location and «bind» a virtual model to them. The main advantage of markerless technology is that real life object can serve as markers by themselves. This way you don’t have to make unique visual identifiers.

  • Marker-based technology:

Marker-based technology, on the other hand, can be more convenient because those markers can be recognized by the camera much easier. In addition to that, with markers, you will get a more stable, tied to a particular point, image. Plus, AR systems and applications can be designed to identify all kinds of markers.

AR devices

Augmented reality still has a long way to go, and developers are looking for better solutions and options to optimize the technology for everyday use. Most advanced AR gadgets are not cheap, though they offer much better-augmented reality experience than overlays on the screen of your smartphone or tablet. Nevertheless, there are leaders in this sphere that stand out of the crowd. And there are some really great attempts to adapt AR for specific niches. Here are just some examples.

Microsoft HoloLens  

HoloLens by Microsoft is nothing short of a truly unique Augmented reality experience (even though the developers prefer to use the term «mixed reality»). Anyhow, this mixed reality and holograms in Microsoft’s entry into the market allow filling the space around you with realistic 3D objects.

The objects you see in HoloLens are not just «floating there» as they would in the regular AR. They naturally blend in into the interior and allow various interactions with surroundings. HoloLens positioning algorithms are based on precise calculations and also take into account human perception of the virtual objects and real ones. Thanks to this method all holograms always look sharp and stable.

Microsoft HoloLens runs on Windows Holographic platform which is built on Windows 10. The consumer version of HoloLens is yet to be announced while the Development edition was released on 30th of March in 2016 with the recommended price $3000.

 

Meta

Meta was inspired by Microsoft HoloLens with its technology based on the principle of integrating holograms into the real world. But it takes the basic concept much further. You can use your hands to touch and move projected images just as like they are real physical objects.

Meta AR glasses support all your Windows and Mac applications. This allows taking them and using them wherever you are. And the best thing here – you don’t need your computer to make it work, just put Meta glasses on and do your thing.

These glasses have a 90-degree FoV (field of view) which is seriously impressive in comparison with gadgets on the market. Plus, a front camera with 720p resolution, integrated audio speakers, and tons of complex sensors.

Meta is not just a new AR toy, it was developed for specialists, like engineers and designers. With the ability to interact with projected objects in real time Meta has a lot of potential to become a major development tool in the near future. Unfortunately, the final consumer version is not available right now, but each interested person can preorder a development kit of Meta today for $949.

Oakley Airwave

Airwave mask series opens the world of augmented reality in the most extreme way. Oakley’s designers combined professional skiing and snowboarding equipment with latest hi-tech solutions. A wide array of sensors, GPS, Bluetooth, and a widescreen 16:9 display to give you instant access to the information.

The heads-up display shows the user his jump statistics and gives detailed analysis including height, length, and air time. For those who want to go beyond there are additional options to display: current speed, altitude, and capture your maximum speed during the slide. Bluetooth connection allows synchronizing your smartphone with the heads-up display to check your incoming calls, texts, manage navigation, and control your music. The current price tag on official Oakley Airwave™ 1.5 mask is $550.

Vuzix M300

Another not yet released device but since it’s a successor of the well-known model Vuzix M100 we know what to expect. The new and improved Vuzix M300 will find its place in any field – from business to entertainment.

These glasses have a lot of different features but to make it short we’re going to list just the main ones like viewing photos, watching videos, making calls, working with apps, playing online games, or just surfing the Web.

Vuzix M300 offers support for both Android and iOS platforms; it has three versatile mounting options to choose from, and last but not least – it has a voice control mode (supports multiple languages) and manual mode.

All in all, Vuzix M300 can be viewed as an adequate substation to a smartphone or laptop. With this gadget, you will never get bored as you can immerse yourself in the world of augmented reality anywhere. The official release date is still unknown, but development kits are already being sent to key customers since late September 2016.

Google Glass Explorer Edition

Original Google Glass was designed bearing one main concept in mind: to produce one unique device that could cover innovative technology functions in combination with regular ones. Google Glass is three things in one: augmented reality experience, mobile and internet connection, and personal video log.

The very first edition of Google Glass has done an excellent job with the vlogging function, but AR and communication capabilities were below expectations. But Google never stops improving and experimenting. That is why Google Glass still exists and receives new versions like Explorer Edition or unreleased Enterprise Edition.

Google was first to experiment with voice control in this niche. After saying simple «Okay, Glass», you are ready to give any command to the smart device. You can take pictures or open certain apps by just asking the gadget to do so. Google Glass also has a touchpad for manual interactions. The image is delivered via a small wearable screen.