Perhaps it's unfair to label something 'a dummy's guide.' After all, you're reading this and you're not a dummy. But, if a dummy were reading this, even he or she would be able to walk away with a better understanding of Augmented Reality.
Maybe a more apt title would be: 'Augmented Reality 101 (For dummies and up).'
Either way, you get the idea. You're unsure of what Augmented Reality is and how it works and this guide is going to set the record straight:
What is Augmented Reality?
Let's start with a definition. Per Mashable: "Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a game. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world."
Make sense? If brevity's more your thing: Augmented Reality superimposes the virtual world onto the physical world.
We're chiefly concerned with advanced AR technology - using computer vision, object recognition, and more, to create experiences where objects and information can be overlaid seamlessly onto the physical world. Being able to see virtual objects and receive virtual information in the physical space opens up a new world of perception and possibility. That kind of technology can be applied in a myriad of ways and we're still in the beginning stages of exploring what that potential looks like.
How does Augmented Reality work?
Don't feel bad if your eyes glazed over reading the above definitions. Terms like the 'the virtual world,' 'computer vision,' 'digitally manipulable,' aren't necessarily self-evident. If this were a guide to baking cakes, for example, a definiton would almost be redundant. You know what flour is. You know what an egg looks like. You can picture a mixing bowl. It's not that simple with AR.
To build Augmented Reality apps, you need programs and developer skills. Unity is a popular platform for building AR apps. Before that, though, you'll need to build and develop the 3D virtual images you're planning to integrate into the physical world. There are a number of programs that can help with that. You'll also need to choose a marker or trigger that the app can recognize to launch the AR experience. So, quick review: 3D images, AR app builder program, AR trigger. That's the short list of ingredients for building an Augmented Reality app.
The process will look something like this:
Who is Augmented Reality for?
Augmented Reality is for YOU! And your friends. And family. And company. And all companies. Everybody. As AR continues to grow and applications improve, AR has massive potential to be a commercial juggernaut (think video games, tourism, sports, movies, concerts) and an enterprise savior (think safety, efficiency, savings, problem solving). According to recent research, 67% of those in business who are not currently using AR are considering adoption in the enterprise. Our Director of Innovation, Harsh Shah, had the opportunity to experience the future of videogaming at a Microsoft HoloLens event in Chicago last year. No matter the sector, Augmented Reality is a fit.
Almost every industry is already exploring uses for Augmented Reality. That's good news - whether you're the enterprise or the consumer. You'll have the chance to experience AR sooner than later in a real world context.
Where can I experience Augmented Reality?
Hopefully soon, in any number of places and ways. For a free sample of what Augmented Reality can do, see the bottom of the this post for a download. AR has been steadily gaining traction for a while and is set to explode in use this year. As major tech giants (like Microsoft) launch seminal products like the HoloLens, AR is going to become more common and available. If you're buying heavy machinery, don't be shocked if you're handed a device and you can see a bulldozer in your conference room. Next time you visit a museum, it shouldn't be a surprise to see exhibits beefed up with AR capabilities. If you're part of the enterprise, expect to experience AR in the near future.
Why is Augmented Reality important?
Yes. Augmented Reality is a still-emerging technology with the potential to change how business is done, how important services are rendered (healthcare, home/auto repair, construction, etc.) and how we, as people, are able to perceive the world around us. It's truly two worlds colliding (or combining, but you get the gist). Augmented Reality can have a great impact on nearly every aspect of our lives.
When will Augmented Reality become mainstream?
Depending on how you're defining 'mainstream,' it already is. The more helpful (and likely) answer: this year. The Microsoft HoloLens will ship in Q1 of 2016. Between the powerful name value of Microsoft and the towering hype behind the device, the HoloLens is a smart bet to push AR to the forefront of public awareness. To get your hands on a HoloLens, you'll need to be a developer and Windows Insider. Then, you'll fill out an application and pay $3,000. Microsoft's plan is to build a "vibrant community" of developers to help build the future of AR. Even if you're not a developer and have no immediate plans to buy the HoloLens (or any AR gear), major movement will happen in the AR community this year and the results will find you.
You've now graduated from a crash course: Augmented Reality 101. You now know what AR is, how it works, and how it will affect society. Feel better? I know we do. AR is an exciting topic and the learning has just begun. Now, go out and experience AR for yourself.
Experience Augmented reality now with our free download: