A Glimpse of the Future: Augmented Reality
Post By Saksham Garg on 20-June-2015
Most of you might remember Google’s April fool prank in the year 2011, where they claimed to have introduced Gmail MOTION, using which Gmail users could control their Gmail account using simple hand gestures, for example making the ‘opening a letter’ gesture to open a new mail, making a throwing gesture to delete a mail and it went on for a while. Everyone had a good laugh about it, but few saw the possibility of making this possible one day. This gesture prank was merely a small part of ‘Augmented Reality’, which is defined as the process of superimposing digitally rendered images onto our real-world surroundings, giving a sense of an illusion or virtual reality. In simple words, Augmented Reality or AR is a way to extensively interact with the real world using the real world and vice versa.
Let’s go back to the TED Talk of 2009 on Sixth Sense by Pranav Mistry. During his talk, he introduced the concept of Sixth Sense which works on the principle of AR. He showed how using simple objects like a camera, some colour caps, mirror and projector he could turn anything into a screen. By focusing on a certain book, he could get an instant review of it. By looking at boarding pass, he could get the flight status. By making a hand gesture, he could take a photo. By looking at the newspaper, he could watch videos related to the news. By making a circle on his wrist, he could see the time. The list is endless. So how does this actually work?
Using a mobile application, a mobile phone's camera identifies and interprets a marker, often a black and white barcode image. The software analyses the marker and creates a virtual image overlay on the mobile phone's screen, tied to the position of the camera. This means the app works with the camera to interpret the angles and distance the mobile phone is away from the marker.
Due to the number of calculations a phone must do to render the image or model over the marker, often only smartphones are capable of supporting augmented reality with any success. Phones need a camera, and if the data for the AR is not stored within the app, a good 3G Internet connection.
To display the information, there are essentially three different kinds of displays-
- The head mounted display (HMD) is worn on the head or attached to a helmet. This display can resemble goggles or glasses.
- The handheld device is a portable computer or mobile smartphone such as the iPhone.
- Spatial display makes use of projected graphical displays onto fixed surfaces.
Augmented Reality thus has unimaginable potential. It finds applications in the military, navigation, education, construction, medical filed, gaming, sports and entertainment, television, advertising, touring and sightseeing, art, commerce and many more! This is a futuristic concept which is closer to reality than you can imagine.