Augmented reality (AR) is the experience of having digital information applied to real-world environments. Unlike virtual reality (VR), which replaces our environment with a virtual world, the goal of AR is to enhance how we experience the real world. To achieve this, a device with a processor must retrieve input from many sources, such as cameras, GPS systems, and accelerometers. The most prominent AR devices for consumers are mobile phones and tablets, but there are also several companies developing monitors, smart glasses, and projectors for use with AR.
The list of use cases for AR is constantly growing as more companies invest in it. Here are some of the industries that AR developers are striving to improve today.
Both brick and mortar stores and e-commerce websites can reap the benefits of AR technologies by providing customers with more information about their products. For instance, when shopping online, customers can use a store’s AR app to preview their purchases in the real world by getting an accurately sized 3D model and overlaying it wherever it’s needed. At traditional retailers, you might use an AR app to quickly learn about each of the items you are browsing by seeing different customization options or reading customer reviews. You could even find options that are out of stock or pull other items from the store catalog to see how they pair with what you are currently viewing.
In the medical field, AR can help doctors reduce the margin of human error. One example of this is the AccuVein handheld scanner, which projects a map of veins onto patients’ skin to guide nurses when making injections. According to its website, nurses were 3.5 times more likely to find the vein on their first injection attempt. Similarly, surgeons can use AR to project specific layers of the body, such as bones, organs, or blood vessels, onto the areas they are operating on. This can improve surgeons’ focus on their current operation. Surgeons without AR typically must make large incisions to see the area around where they are operating, which can increase recovery time. However, surgeons with AR can already see some of the information they need, so they can choose to make smaller incisions for their patients’ benefit.
Several major car companies, including Volvo, Audi, and Volkswagen have been testing the Microsoft HoloLens, an AR headset, for various design purposes. Automobile designers traditionally create prototypes with 3D models before sculpting large-scale versions with clay. This iteration process can be both time-consuming and costly, because when team members inevitably find flaws in the design, they will need to apply them to the 3D model and to a new clay sculpture later. With AR, 3D models can be projected onto a physical model and designers can apply changes to them before they are built. AR can also help facilitate conversations between team members by projecting feedback or regulations onto a physical model. This level of detail can help designers identify flaws earlier in the design process and make iteration much quicker than before.
With more and more companies vying to become the world’s leaders in AR development, there is no better time to start learning about how to implement AR. Some of the most widely used SDKs for AR app development, such as ARCore, ARKit, and Wikitude, are all free software, so don’t hesitate to download one of them and get started!