Augmented reality is a term combining the two terms “virtual reality” and “digital reality”. In simple terms, augmented reality is the combination of computer technology with human input to create an entirely new form of interactivity. This is different from the traditional display technologies such as LCD panels and Projector displays, which provide only images to the user’s eyes. A new class of technologies known as augmented reality presents digital information overlaid on the real world physical data. It is not a new idea, but it is taking the technology to new levels.
Augmented reality (also called as ‘mixed reality’) is a new development in Information Technology. It refers to the collection of information blended with real or non-real world data. Augmented reality allows users to interact with digital information in manners that are very similar to using an actual web browser. However, the user is transported into a digital world, where all the usual conveniences of the real world, such as touch-screen interface, keyboard control, camera interaction and mouse movement are available.
This new type of technology has the potential to completely change how we do business. Today, large organizations and industries are investing billions of dollars to collect, process, utilize and deliver huge amounts of data. As a result of this, companies no longer need warehouses full of physical files. Companies can now use a computer chip that contains relevant information and image recognition technology and request that the chip is scanned into a device that is linked to the internet. The request is transmitted back to the processing center where employees can view all the relevant information instantly.
Users can interact with the digital information that is being stored on the chip. They can manipulate the displayed images with appropriate hand movements or finger movements, just like they would with a digital mouse or keyboard. They can also “speak” to the chip using either their voice or a speaker. All of this is done without the use of a keyboard, mouse or any other typical hardware peripheral. This new interaction is known as augmented reality.
Manufacturers of computer hardware and software are licking their lips at the prospect of being able to provide this new level of convenience. Already, the computer industry is working on new, augmented reality technologies that will allow a user to place their hands on a screen and immediately be presented with relevant information. Soon, computer users will not have to resort to visiting a special desktop that contains printed manuals anymore.
Will consumers be willing to wait for this new technology to become popular in mainstream computers? Some are already taking baby steps. Google has already introduced touch-screen keyboards and a new effort by Microsoft to provide “natural language processing” to its operating system. Apple is said to be working on devices that will allow users to view and search the web, locate files and emails and even send emails to other people. In the near future, it appears that the computer industry will be able to provide users with all the information they need in just a few seconds.
One thing that’s not likely is augmented reality to replace Windows. Apple is “the most valuable company in the technology industry” and has already proven that it is not afraid to try new technologies. However, if Google’s efforts don’t pan out, this could very well be the start of the computer industry’s downfall. With PCs and smartphones becoming obsolete within a very short period of time, the computer industry needs to figure out how to reinvent itself.
Will new augmented reality technologies to provide consumers and the computer industry with the experience that they’re looking for? Only time will tell. Right now, the best things you can do are to keep your eyes open and be patient. Augmented reality technologies may not completely change the way we do everything, but it could change everything.