POSTED 07.06.17 / BY HOTWASABI
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 other data. The experience seeks to enhance the perception of reality, in contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.
In AR computer algorithms uses sensors, markers, or object recognition to spot the current position of physical objects and determine location of simulated ones. GPU technology then renders the picture that will appear through the camera. Technology is advancing rapidly. Several companies already make fairly simple glasses that can project flat images for users. They are increasingly popular with warehousing and manufacturing firms, who can use them to issue instructions to employees while leaving their hands free to carry on working.
Google was arguably one of the first to high-light the potential of AR with the introduction of Google Glass proof of concept in 2013. Since then there has been a wealth of interest from both the consumer giants such as Google, Microsoft, Samsung, and Apple, to a whole host of innovative startups which are looking to crate niche solutions such as the Daqri smart helmet for industrial applications, and Osterhout design group making AR glasses for medical companies. The benefits for AR are numerous and cover a range of industry, commercial, and consumer applications who share the following similar needs:
-Mobility; Workers who are constantly on the move and need constantly updated information could be ideal candidates for AR. Workers in the field could use AR devices, like a headset, glasses, or smartphone to feed them relevant information such as manuals and instructions on how to solve the task in front of them.
-Hands-free; AR devices with head-up displays, and/or human voice interaction can deliver real-time data to workers whose efficiency and safety depends on keeping their hands free hence decreasing the interaction cost to perform a task.
-Visual alerts and reminders; When alarm fatigue, ambient daily noise, and inattention for any reason interfere with time-sensitive, important tasks, reducing the user’s cognitive load and by combining multiple sources of information minimizing user attention switches.
-Environment-awareness; AR can be an incredible time-saver for workers who need to have specific information from backend systems that integrate with what happens in and near their line of sight, designing layers of added value that reduce the time to complete simple tasks and reduce human error by removing room for interpretation.
-Multi-modal; AR devices respond to voice commands, taps, gestures, or head movements. This means that anyone from manual laborers to industrial workers to surgeons could use AR for increased productivity.
-Training; Unlike a real-world training scenario, a trainee can play through an AR situation as many times as they need to grasp a concept or a procedure. Eg. in the oil and gas industry, FuelFX deploys interactive simulations, animations and 3D graphics to create step-by-step guides for trainees learning new equipment.
-New ways of working; In the health industry AR could change how doctors diagnose and treat illnesses eg. an AR headset could capture symptoms during the examination of a patient and place relevant medical information in the doctor's view.
AR has entered the mainstream with the introduction of the mobile app Pokemon Go, and the layering of digital content with apps like Snapchat. Marketing companies have also seized on the rise in adoption of Smartphones in providing augmented reality marketing campaigns. Google, Microsoft, and Apple are looking to make the AR experience even more accessible with the development of AR platforms and device solutions.
Google Tango is a platform giving the phone an extra set of sensors, it can detect the shape of the world around it. Using information from infra-red detectors, a wide-angle lens and a “time-of-flight” camera (which measures how long pulses of light take to reflect off the phone’s surroundings) Tango is able to build up a three-dimensional image of those surroundings. Armed with all this, a Tango-enabled phone can model a house, an office or any other space, and then use that model as a canvas upon which to draw things.
Microsoft have been developing a mixed reality product - HoloLens. It can draw 3D images that appear to exist in the real world. Users can walk around a virtual motorbike, for instance, to inspect it from behind, or place virtual ornaments on real tables or shelves. The device’s cameras, derived from the Kinect (an accessory developed for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 games console), scan the world around it. The cameras generate such a flood of information that Microsoft has had to design a special chip to process all the incoming data. Aecom, an international firm of architects and engineers, is already using HoloLens to help design buildings.
Apple have increased their participation in AR with recent announcement (WWDC 2017) of ARKit; a tool to harnesses inputs from motion sensors and cameras in iOS devices to allow apps to superimpose virtual elements, eg. a 3D mug of steaming coffee, onto real-world objects seen through the device's camera, in this case a coffee table. Using ARKit, developers will be able to create AR apps that work with people's existing iPhones. That's in stark contrast to Google's Tango AR platform, which requires phone manufacturers to integrate Tango-compatible sensors and other hardware into their devices. The upshot is that Apple's entrance into the AR industry will potentially make iOS devices the largest AR platform in the world. ARKit has a lot of features that will excite developers, such as the ability to estimate lighting in the real world so that virtual objects can be covered in realistic-looking shadows.
DAQRI a new startup born out of the United States Merchant Marine Academy have developed a range of AR products including the Smart Helmet, currently in pilot testing with around a dozen Fortune 500 companies, is looking to transform how companies in areas like automation, oil & gas, and transportation give workers distributed information and situational awareness outside of the control room to improve efficiency by reducing the amount of movement and the need for a centralized location. The company plans to launch an SDK for developers to build on its AR platform.
A potential new area of AR is augmented audio or the use of enhanced sound to superimpose information based on the real-world environment in the same way HUD solutions use digital graphics. The human sense of hearing allows us to filter and focus in on sounds. Whilst having a conversation in a busy room, we can filter out others and focus on the person we are speaking to. Our primary means of communicating with each other is through sound. The HEXA concept from Design Partners demonstrates how we can augment sound as a way of computing. In the industrial space HEXA provides a personal intelligent safety device that protects your ears, filters harmful sounds, but also amplifies useful sounds, alerting you to potential hazards, threats, and giving timely/contextual feedback from devices and mobile apps to enhance productivity.
As AR devices eventually start to resemble a normal pair of glasses, helmet, or earphones, allowing informative graphics to appear in a wearers field of view, and enhanced audio to coincide with whatever is seen. Powered by dedicated computers these enhancements will be refreshed continually to reflect movements of the head, a users context, and real-time events in the world. Resulting in an elevated experience, which to anyone who is familiar with the Marvel Iron-Man character, allows them to perform in superhuman ways.
I am passionate about innovative design and creating user experiences at the intersection of art, science and technology.
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