Augmented or Assisted Reality technology has been proving to be a very valuable tool in everyday living. From surgical procedures to social media, Assisted Reality is expanding its popularity. This post will discuss What is Assisted/ Augmented Reality, its components, types, applications and future.

Functioning of Augmented/ Assisted  Reality

The idea of projecting extra information into the users’ vision field is termed as Assisted Reality. Head up display used in top notch cars is a good example to this concept. With this equipment, the user can look straight ahead at the windshield and gain information like current and permitted speed and navigation instructions. There are several devices available that make Assisted Reality accessible to the general population. Mobile devices and smart glasses are few such examples.

Augmented Reality is considered synonymous to Assisted Reality. Here, apart from presenting additional information, real time 3D objects are rendered to users’ vision field as well.

Assisted Reality in Cars

Fig. 1 – Assisted Reality in Cars

How Augmented/ Assisted Reality Works

Before understanding the functioning of Augmented Reality, it is important to comprehend its objective i.e. Introducing the real world to computer generated entities, that can be seen only by the user. There are three key components in this regard.

Components of Augmented/ Assisted Reality

  • Hardware
  • Software
  • Remote server

Hardware in Augmented/ Assisted Reality

Augmented Reality devices are fitted with processors, input devices, sensors and display. These are in fact, mini supercomputers that are packed into small wearable devices. They require significant processing power and contains components like CPU, flash memory, RAM, GPS, GPU, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and many others.

Sensors are located outside the Augmented Reality device and communicate the user’s interaction with real world entities to the processor. These sensors can be mobile device’s accelerometer, infrared or gyroscope.

Cameras are also placed outside the device that scan the surrounding area and collect relevant data. This information is taken by the devices that formulate digital models for determining the correct output. Mirrors are also used to assist the manner in which our eyes view the virtual image.

While few Augment Reality tools have a range of tiny curved mirrors, few others are fitted with only double sided mirrors. One surface of this mirror reflects the incoming light onto a camera and the other side bounces light from a side mount display to the eye. Display can be a handheld device, monitor, head mounted displays (HMD) or eyeglasses.

Software in Augmented/ Assisted Reality

Software plays a major role in the functioning of augmented reality devices. D’Fusion and other special 3D programs are used for creating augmented reality based applications.

3D software is used for developing virtual images, that overlap the real world image. AutoCad3D, Cinema 4D and StudioMax are a few such examples.

Remote Server in Augmented/ Assisted Reality

Apart from the software and hardware, a cloud or a web server is used in maintaining a database for the virtual images scanned. Upon request from the augmented reality applications, virtual images will be retrieved from the database and passed on to the requesting application.

Components of augmented reality

Fig.2 – Components of Augmented/ Assisted Reality

Types of Augmented/ Assisted Reality

Augmented Reality has several types that vary in their applications and objectives. They are as mentioned below:

  • Marker based Augmented/ Assisted Reality
  • Markerless or location based Augmented/ Assisted Reality
  • Augmented/ Assisted Reality based on projection
  • Augmented/ Assisted Reality based on superimposition

Marker Based Augmented/ Assisted Reality

This category of Augmented Reality makes use of a camera and visual markers that recognize a product only when the reader is able to successfully identify the marker.

Camera is used by these applications in order to discern a real world entity from a marker. Distinct, yet simple patterns like the QR code is used. This is because they require less processing power and are easy to recognize.

QR code used in Marker based Augmented Reality

Fig. 3 – QR code used in Marker Based Augmented Reality

Markerless Or Location Based Augmented/ Assisted Reality

It is one of the most widely used augmented reality applications today. It uses a digital compass, a GPS, accelerometer or velocity meter that is embedded into the device. Thus dynamic data is provided based on user’s location.

Smartphones containing location detection feature have become the driving force of Markerless Augmented Reality today. Other applications include direction mapping, discovering a nearby business and other such location-centric data.

Detailed image of location based augmented reality

Fig. 4- Location Based Augmented Reality

Augmented/ Assisted Reality Based On Projection

It works by projection synthetic light on the surface of real world objects. Applications based on this technique allow human interaction by first projecting the light onto the surface and later sense the human interaction to the light projected.

This detection of human interaction is possible by distinguishing between the known/expected projection and distorted projection.

Projected Augmented Reality

Fig. 5 – Projected Augmented Reality

Augmented/ Assisted Reality Based On Superimposition

This technology replaces the actual view of the object (either fully or partially) with a newly amplified view. Hence, object recognition plays a vital role in superimposed technique of Augmented Reality.

Augmented Reality Based On Superimposition

Fig. 6 – Actual Object Superimposed With a Newer Object

Applications of Augmented/ Assisted Reality

This technology offers limitless possibility for application in the real world scenario. It is a game changer for information consumption process, entertainment, business, communication and many other fields. As all applications can not be explained in a single post, we will discuss its application in:

  • Aviation
  • Education
  • Healthcare

Augmented/ Assisted Reality in Aviation

Augmented reality is used to map out flight paths and educate flight students about landing a flight simulator. It is also used for pilot assistance program where pilots can gather the necessary information without struggling with touch interface or physical controls.

Augmented reality in Aviation

Fig. 7 – Augmented Reality in Pilot Assistance Program

Augmented/ Assisted Reality in Education

Augmented reality in education is used to design a standard curriculum. Graphics, text, audio and video can be superimposed on to the pupil’s real world environment. It has enabled the use of interactive reading materials that provide additional information to the students.

They are now able to interact with and learn from their new environment. Augmented reality promotes remote collaboration, where instructors and students from different locales interact through a common learning environment.

Augmented reality in education

Fig. 8 – Augmented Reality in Education

Augmented/ Assisted Reality in Healthcare

Augmented reality is providing patient data to the surgeons. It also allows records of patient imaging and functional videos to be obtained and overlaid. It is used in surgery, recovery treatments and practical training sessions.

Augmented reality in healthcare

Fig. 9 – Augmented Reality in Healthcare

Future of Augmented/ Assisted Reality

The future promises more venues for Augmented Reality. Apart from tablets and mobile phones, there is an ongoing research for including Augmented Reality in several wearable devices like contact lenses . The ultimate goal lies in creating a suitable and inherent immersion of Augmented Reality in our everyday lives.

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Nandini is a PGDBA and BE graduate in ECE and has work experience as a software test engineer at Applied Materials and C Square Technologies Pvt Ltd. She is an Author, Editor and Partner at Electricalfundablog.