What is AR

Posted on September 19, 2013 in Augmented Reality - 0

Augmented Reality Heads Up Display BMWaug·men·ted re·al·i·ty

“A technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view.”



In 1990, Boeing researcher Tom Caudell and David Mizell first coined the term “augmented reality” to describe a digital display used by aircraft electricians that blended virtual graphics onto a physical reality while working at Boeing’s Computer Services’ Adaptive Neural Systems Research and Development project in Seattle.

Simultaneously a second group, from Columbia University, made up of Steven FeinerBlair MacIntyre and Doree Seligmann submitted a paper on a prototype system they called KARMA (Knowledge-based Augmented Reality for Maintenance Assistance). They built an HMD (head-mounted display) with Logitech-made trackers attached to it and a printer. The aim was to develop projected 3D graphics of a ghost image to showcase how to load and service the printer without having to refer to instructions.

Although the term was coined in 1990 the existence dates back to 1968. Ivan Sutherland created the first augmented reality system, which is also happens to be the first virtual reality system. It uses an optical see-through head-mounted display that is tracked by one of two different 6DOF trackers: a combined mechanical tracker and an ultrasonic tracker. Due to the limited processing power of computers at that time, only very simple wireframe drawings could be displayed in real time.


Augmented reality (AR) is cutting-edge technology that allows for a digitally enhanced view of the real world, connecting you with more meaningful content in your everyday life. With the camera and sensors in a smartphone or tablet, AR adds layers of digital information – videos, photos, sounds – directly on top of items in the world around us.

Today several companies create interactive print using the power of AR – helping to bridge the gap between the print and digital worlds. As a good example, the Layar App has been downloaded over 33 million times, and the Layar Creator – a web-based, self-service interactive print creation tool introduced in 2012 – is used by over 55,000 publishers and editors.

AR adoption is increasing across media agencies as its impact on brand awareness as marketing campaign virality becomes clearer. Maxim and IKEA are two great examples of Augmented Reality edifying such campaigns.

The reason for such confidence in augmented reality derives not from major leaps in AR technology itself, but from a separate revolution: the adoption of the smartphone. With the increase in processing power, operating system intelligence, supplied in a smart phone form-factor, AR is the obvious missing layer to bring contextual content to life.

Regrettably AR alone is not enough to guarantee marketing success. Media agencies looking to reollout a succesful AR media campaign need to still adhere to marketing fundamentals: make the content interactive, be topical, give users an incentive and don’t forget to promote the campaign!


Augmented reality embeds digital information into real-world contexts.  Virtual reality creates digital contexts that behave in ways that mimic the real-world. In layman terms, virtual reality lets you build a virtual city, augmented reality lets you overlay content upon a real city.

When you engage augmented reality, you are engaging an ordinary place, space, thing or event in a way that is partly mediated by superimposed digital content.  This content is accessed through an additional device (Google Glass, iPhone, iPad, Tablet etc.) which helps access the blended experience. AR is an artificial experience created and presented to the user in such a way that it overlays the real-world environment.

When you engage virtual reality, you immersively engage digital objects in a digital environment. Typically you have a 1st-person view of the objects, and the contents are arrayed in all three spatial dimensions, so you are able to physically move around in them. Ultimately VR is an artificial environment created and presented to the user in such a way that it appears and feels like a real environment.

Interestingly, the generic museum experience itself is kind of like AR – there are real-world objects in the space, with visitors exploring objects by seeing labels attached to them, or by listening to audio that is synchronized to each object on a tour. Museumology may provide some theoretical underpinnings for AR design.


Layar, Tagwhat, Junaio, Wikitude and other similar apps are augmented reality apps.  Social virtual worlds like Second Life or Smallworlds are virtual reality environments, as are some persistent-world MMORPGs like World of Warcraft.

AR vs VR Explained

Like most technologies that eventually reach a mass market, augmented reality, or AR, has been incubating in university labs, as well as small companies focused on gaming and vertical applications, for nearly half a century. Emerging products like Google Glass and Oculus Rift’s 3D virtual reality headset for immersive gaming are drawing attention to what could now be termed the “wearable revolution,” but they barely scratch the surface of what’s to come.

The necessary apparatus of cameras, computers, sensors and connectivity is coming down in cost and size, and increasing in speed, accuracy and resolution to point that wearable computers will be viewed as a cool accessory, acting as a bridge between our interactions with the analog and digital worlds.

Professor Steven Feiner recently described the wearable computer revolution, saying “It would be like moving from big headphones to earbuds. When they are very small and comfortable, you don’t feel weird, but cool.” These “sexier” more refined versions could be cool to the early adopters, especially the younger generation that has grown up digital.

Will Wright, creator of the popular The Sims family games, likened AR to having super-sensory abilities, like flipping a switch to see what is underground, beneath your feet. “It’s not about bookmarks or restaurant reviews…it’s something that maps to my intuition.” He hopes that instead of augmenting reality, the technology could “decimate” reality, filtering out even more information than the brain already does to engage reality with less cacophony (harshness). The goal for many folks preaching AR – is to reduce the noise in the real world!


And where is all this heading over the next few years? It’s beginning to look like a real business, just as mobile did nearly a decade ago. Mobile analyst Tomi Ahonen expects AR to be adopted by a billion users by 2020. Intel is betting that AR will be big. The chip maker is investing $100 million over the next 2 to 3 years to fund companies developing “perceptual computing” software and apps, focusing on next-generation, natural user interfaces such as touch, gesture, voice, emotion sensing, biometrics, and image recognition.

Apple isn’t in the AR game yet, but the company has been awarded a U.S. patent, “Synchronized, interactive augmented reality displays for multifunction devices,” for overlaying video on live video feeds. The patent describes how an information layer can be generated related to the objects. In some implementations, the information layer can include annotations made by a user through the touch sensitive surface. The sensor data can be used to synchronize the live video and the information layer as the perspective of video camera view changes due to the motion. The live video and information layer can be shared with other devices over a communication link.

Via SDKs and APIs developers are understanding the power of AR and hacking together wearable computer combinations that enahnce the real-world with digital content. It’s not just Apple that is interested but the war on AR will be bigger than anything we’ve seen in the mobile phone space. As you might imagine, a number of implementations have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications may be made. For example, elements of one or more implementations may be combined, deleted, modified, or supplemented to form further implementations. Read this post on AR in Gaming and you’ll see how a combination of visceral experience could lead to an even bigger AR experience than ever imagined.