Augmented reality (AR) doesn’t belong only to sci-fi films anymore. It could be dreamed about fifty years ago but it is a part of our everyday life now. AR is an evolved technology used in various fields and industries to solve a wide range of problems. There is a number of augmented reality devices on the market, for instance, smart glasses, but in this article, we’ll talk about AR in mobile applications development.
What is augmented reality? When one talks about augmented reality in mobile apps, this usually implies placing of digital graphic elements onto the real world picture through the camera. However similar those definitions may seem, one should not confuse augmented reality with virtual reality (VR) technology. Whereas VR creates a whole new reality, AR only adds new elements to the “real” reality.
Augmented reality has its roots in 1968 when Ivan Sutherland created the first head-mounted display (HMD) system ever. Since then, AR has taken a huge step forward and now it enables many interesting and useful applications. So here comes the question: how does augmented reality technology work?
The system reacts to a marker in front of the camera and recognises it. Then it “puts” the appropriate image onto this marker or another target object near this marker.
There is a marker-based and a markerless augmented reality technology. Marker-based AR is simpler than the latter. It requires special markers, for instance, barcodes, near the target object. These markers are hard-coded into the app and it is much simpler to recognise them than a random unknown object.
Markerless augmented reality technology is somewhat more complex. It resembles the way we see ordinary things. When we see a building, we don’t need to have a sign saying “a building” near it. We know this right away. However, it is much more complicated for software developers to create. The application code has to contain an algorithm to recognise patterns, colours and features of an object to be able to conclude if the object is actually the target object and identify its fragments.
After the system has recognised the object, it performs analysis to “decide” where to and what object to put onto the image.
There are many cases in which AR technology can be and is applied. It can be used basically everywhere where there is something to do with vision. Here are the most important cases.
If you’ve ever been to a great exhibition that is not actually adapted for children with a child, you know how annoying it can be. So imagine an augmented reality application providing a game with lots of interesting information for kids, maybe an adventure game or an arcade. Thus even an exhibition of antique sculptures can become informative and entertaining for kids, giving them the opportunity to learn something about history and art and their parents or supervisors to enjoy the exhibition themselves.
Augmented reality apps can be successfully used for education in a wide range of cases. It can be applied for a richer learning experience with models such as organs in anatomy, molecules and crystal structures in chemistry, buildings and people in history, sky maps in astronomy and so on. Furthermore, it is good for employee training in a wide range of cases: from merchandisers to air pilots. Thus you can send them instructions concerning various object directly to their smart devices without the necessity to use written manuals. The same principle can also be used in our everyday life. Imagine a person buying a dishwasher and pointing the camera to an element to get the instructions to the same element right away on the smart device. Or even learning about objects like plants, food types etc.
Augmented reality is applied in the beauty industry. There are mobile applications that allow users to try on makeup, haircuts and tattoos. They can successfully be used by individuals as well as beauty salons.
AR can be used the same way in retail, especially in fashion and interior design. It can be used for clothes fitting for you can do it even at home, catalogues, virtual shops (imagine you can see the size of a new smartphone just “placing” it onto your hand in an AR mobile app). Or you can see how a new sofa will look in your living room in a few seconds and without any effort.
A more helpful application of AR is in healthcare, especially in phobias or personality disorders treatment. Imagine a person with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) who takes an exposure therapy (gradually increasing the level of exposure to the object of fear: from seeing a word that describes it to actually interacting with it). So at a certain step of treatment, an app can be used that shows this person a snake nearby to give the patient the right level of fear exposure.
Suppose an enterprise has lots of remote staff members. It would be much more convenient to conduct meetings and discuss products and projects when one has an AR mobile application to enable all this.
You surely have heard about such popular mobile apps as Pokémon GO and MSQRD. They both use augmented reality technology to enable rich and amusing user experience. In Pokémon GO you can see creatures in front of you that actually do not exist at all. And the successful Belarusian startup MSQRD allows you to try on different masks that adjust themselves to your facial expression and emotions. These apps have millions of fans so it is true to say that AR can create an outstanding user experience. Another application can be bringing a child’s drawing to life to give them joy.
Travelling & Advertising
When you travel, it is quite useful to know right away what building is in front of you or to find the locations of interest around you. The same principle can be applied for advertising when users can see offers and sales just pointing their smartphone cameras to shopping centre hall.
Smartum Pro has an experienced software development team that has already applied the augmented reality technology in a number of previous custom mobile applications development projects.
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