Augmented reality, also known as augmented virtual reality, is a rapidly evolving field of computer science which uses the knowledge of digital imaging to create new forms of interactivity in digital reality. In order to define an augmented reality it is important to understand what is meant by ‘augmented reality’. In its simplest form augmented reality is the ability to provide virtual reality display systems where real objects appear in response to a user’s input from within the user’s own environment. The term ‘augmented reality’ was first coined by the creator of the Magic Lamp, Mattel, as a description of their interactive toy. Since then, more multimedia toys and systems have included digital displays within the user’s environment to provide rich user experiences.
Augmented reality now encompasses a much greater range of applications than simple toy remotes and similar hand held controls. Some notable examples of augmented reality applications in today’s society include; GPS navigation, location tagging, air travel, mobile phone telephony, digital signage and gaming. These systems are used in a wide variety of fields and industries to create rich user experiences. For example GPS Navigation provides real time traffic information as well as route planning, flight times and weather information based on current location and current condition. This type of technology is ideal for controlling flights in large busy airports and providing real time updates and warnings about road conditions and safety risks.
In the case of smartphones and tablets, augmented reality can be applied to elements such as the camera. Phones and tablets typically include camera sensors to enable pictures to be downloaded directly to the user’s photo album. Digital signage is another application which makes use of the camera sensors found in smartphones and tablet computers. The display can be created in real time by displaying a slide show of recent photos taken by the camera or displayed in a thumbnail form on the screen. This allows the user to browse through their photo album and choose images of interest.
Another application which makes use of the camera and the internet is called AR functionality in mobiles. mobiles include features such as; GPS navigation, mapping applications, real time traffic information and the ability to browse the web via GPS. By combining these features with information from the internet, augmented reality can be made to work almost as a fully featured smartphone or tablet. The only difference between an ordinary smartphone or tablet and an augmented reality smartphone or tablet is that the smartphone or tablet detects objects in the real world and displays them on the screen.
One example of augmented reality applications includes the GPS. GPS is often used in modern day vehicles to guide drivers to their intended destinations. It does this by detecting positions (bearing) relative to other points on the map. This type of technology is made use of in many different ways in modern day vehicles. For example, in Mercedes Benz models, the front headlamps are designed to merge with the rear lights to form a single, seamless light display, which helps drivers navigate in low-visibility conditions.
In addition to the GPS, the Mercedes car uses laser imaging, video mapping overlays and infra-red search capabilities to augment the driver’s vision while driving. The result is that the end user is presented with an enhanced driving experience and reduces the chance of accidents due to poor weather conditions, bad road conditions or accidents caused by distracted drivers. Video map overlays allow the operator to see detailed maps and arrows on the road while moving around town or on an important business trip. The advantage of this is that, when using video map overlays, the driver can see the exact locations of all important landmarks in the virtual city, whereas it would be extremely difficult to locate on the road when using traditional maps.
The use of smartphones and tablets for augmented reality is becoming very popular because it provides new ways of monitoring healthcare facilities. Many hospitals have started using mobile devices to track and monitor patients that are in need of intensive care. These are called mobile assessment units and they work just like a tablet PC that has a touch screen and a camera. These units use the patient’s blood pressure as a reference point, and they can also measure the glucose in their blood. The data is stored in a database that is accessed via the smartphone or a tablet computer. This type of software can easily be downloaded to the smartphone, which means that medical staff will not have to call someone to come to the unit for a physical assessment.
The advantages of using smartphones and tablets for augmented reality are numerous. One is that it makes driving safer and more predictable, because the system identifies potential problems before they become serious enough to cause an accident. It is also incredibly useful for monitoring the healthcare and safety in the world around us. A particularly worrying development is that the rapid expansion of smartphones into other areas of the economy may make augmented reality ever more common, and therefore much harder to protect against.