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What is increased reality? "Next reality

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said that increased reality will "change everything".

In recent years, the technology has already affected several industries. It has helped companies to become more efficient. It has begun a new way for brands to market products. It can make neighborhoods a virtual playground. And it can add another dimension of fun and creativity to photos and videos. As a result, AR has attracted the attention of investors.

But what is reinforced reality, exactly? If you are looking for the answer, you have come to the right place.

Definition of enhanced reality and its characteristics

While modern technology has brought the "silver age" of increased reality, the concept is and even some of the implementations of the technology are not new.

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994, researchers Paul Milgram, Haruo Takemura, Akira Utsumi and Fumio Kishino defined a reinforced and virtual reality as points on a spectrum, doubling the continuity of reality-virtuality. On one end of the spectrum, the real environment is seen naturally by humans. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the virtual reality, where the real environment is completely replaced by a digital environment.

The points between the real environment and the virtual reality are occupied by increased reality, where hardware and software complement the natural environment with digital content.

The researchers also trained the concept of mixed reality as an overall classification for technology that joins the real and virtual environments, with Microsoft interacting the term and conflating it with its own Mixed Reality platform for VR thus confusing some consumers in recent years ).

Fast-winding to modern-day makes the realization of the textbox definition for increased reality dependent on environmental understanding of computers delivered via a connected camera, to deliver virtual content within the user's field of view.

One-way environmental understanding is achieved through markers that allow the computer to track consistently within the environment. A marker can be created by corresponding to a QR code that a computer's camera recognizes as a virtual content placement area. Another way to establish a marker is a headlight that communicates its physical location to the AR unit.

Conversely, environmental understanding without a marker means that you build a 3D map of the environment. Initial marketless reinforced reality experiences required a camera that can feel the depth of the environment. Without a depth sensor, computers can use a computer vision algorithm trained to estimate surfaces to anchor virtual content to the environment.

Another element of environmental understanding is occlusion, which refers to real world objects that block the display of virtual content from the point of view of the computer's camera and its users, which enhances the realism of the virtual content. Usually, this requires a depth sensor, but computer display progress in tests has demonstrated the ability to identify physical objects within the camera view.

Finally, realistic enhanced reality experiences require 3D content. Developers generally use the same game engines used to create virtual reality experiences, mainly Unity and Unreal Engine, to create enhanced reality content. Along with 3D engines, AR experiences need 3D models to show in real physical environments. Models can be created in 3D modeling programs or captured by photogrammetry of real world objects.

How technology delivers enhanced experience

We have determined that enhanced reality experiences are delivered via computers. For the average consumer, it means smartphones and tablets that have the cameras to read markers or discover surfaces and the mobility of the users to target the device to its field of view. Many current smartphones also include sensors (usually an accelerometer, a magnetometer, and a gyroscope) that allow AR devices to orient the user for their environment and virtual content.

Modern pioneers of augmented reality

Elevated reality is far from a new technology. As a military tool, rudimentary AR use dates back to the 1960s in heads-up fighter aircraft. And the yellow first mark in American football television broadcasts? Yup, it is also a form-enhanced reality.

For all purposes, the modern era of enhanced reality traces back to the 2010s. One of the earliest examples of mobile-enhanced reality was Layar, an enlarged reality browser that shows waypoints in its camera view and facilitates cursor-based AR experiences. Another strengthened reality start called Blippar bought Layar 2014 to contribute to its marker-based AR platform for advertisers.

But the only advanced AR unit that the public feels best is Google Glass, which made its public debut on Google I / O 2012. Google made the portable device available for purchase for $ 1500 through an exclusive Explorer program 2013, which expanded to a wider audience in 2014. Unfortunately, the device, which used a non-for-subtle display and camera mounted in its frames to display notifications and content in the user's viewpoint, faced a public setback, with early adopters labeled as a potential integrity-invading "glass hole". Google stored the product for regular consumers, but launched the device for corporate customers in 2017, a segment that has found the technology useful for improving the productivity of different types of workers.

Google took a new shot of enhanced reality hardware in 2014 with its Project Tango platform, a combination of depth sensors for manufacturers and a development package to build apps that can take advantage of the hardware. The first commercially available Tango unit was released in 2016 via Lenovo Phab2 Pro, which was followed in 2017 by Asus ZenPhone AR. Google closed the 2017 program in favor of a toolbox designed to work without specialized hardware (more on that later).

In 2016, a leading year for modern strengthened reality. Microsoft made its HoloLens headset available for purchase that year after its introduction in 2015. HoloLens set the standard for magnified reality clothing by using a depth sensor that was adapted from the Kinect camera accessory to Xbox, a tool for mapping physical environments that included a gesture recognition system that included become a blueprint for other enhanced reality heads. But at a price of about $ 3,000, the market for HoloLens has been limited mostly to corporate companies and developers on the bleeding edge.

In the mobile AR ecosystem (ie AR you use via a smartphone or tablet) Pokémon GO became the first blockbuster augmented reality app, which turns neighborhood and parks into virtual playgrounds for players to capture virtual beings. In addition, Snapchat first added AR camera effects or lenses to its app in 2016. Since its inception, Snapchat's taste of AR has started the marketing industry's adoption of the technology for a number of major brands and entertainment franchises. The two aforementioned mobile AR programs have become synonymous with the enhanced reality, especially in common media reports trying to explain AR to neophytes.

The gold and silver age of AR

For some AR industry watchers, it may seem too early to define what would be silver or golden age of increased reality. However, given the spread of the new AR technology over the last two years alone, we can very well look back on this period as the AR silver age.

Since Snapchat continued to build on its AR platform, added AR content to the rear camera and enables creators and brands to develop their own AR experiences with the Lens Studio desktop tool, Facebook has mirrored its AR strategy with its own AR platform and development app, Spark AR.

Meanwhile, Apple and Google have made it easier for mobile app developers to integrate AR into their apps with ARKit for iOS and ARCore for Android. Development tools use computer vision and the camera of compatible smartphones and tablets to detect surfaces to anchor AR content, simulate environmental lighting and other features that help realistically display virtual content in the real world.

While Google abandoned depth sensors For smartphones, Apple has started sending the cameras in its iPhone X series. Apple's TrueDepth cameras have enabled face recognition experiences that bleed into the AR space with tools like Animojis. The company is working on expanding the technology to the rear camera, which would undoubtedly lead to other smartphone manufacturers following suit.

The mobile AR platforms are rapidly evolving, with the concept of AR cloud, a digital copy of the world that enables multi-year experiences and persistent content in the real world, and occlusion, which gradually grabs itself. So far, projects including Niantic Real World Platform, 6D.ai and Ubiquity6 have been among the leading AR cloud platforms in beta testing.

And after years of hype, Magic Leap finally released its ARM headset, Magic Leap One, in 2018. The device marks the strongest challenge for HoloLens but with similar space compatibility and user interface capabilities at a slightly lower price. While it is still beyond the thrill of regular consumers, Magic Leap has begun to roll out a content series that seems to be more interested in the consumer market, at least when it comes to online chats and general curiosity (It remains to be seen whether that interest will turn into sales. )

The first wave of traditional-style smartglasses aimed at consumers is currently on the market, with North's Focals available for as little as $ 599 and Vuzix Blade retail for $ 999. Both work as heads -up screens that provide on-demand information, limited app interactions, and Amazon Alexa voice commands. While its release is not planned, Nreal Light smartglasses take one step further with the ability to view 3D content through a tethered data package and modern sunglasses frames.

These lesser-known companies may be the first of the gateway, but the big tech companies are preparing to enter the consumer's smartglass competition as well, with Apple as the odds-to-favor to eventually dominate space (as they usually do with consumer electronics). In addition, Snap, Facebook and Google are developing their own smart glass or AR headsets.

Challenges to the Enhanced Reality

As the augmented reality moves forward, it faces a matrix of challenges to become a true mainstream technology. While the industry is presenting smart glasses as an experience that always brings constant information in the user's viewpoint, laptops must also fall within a form factor that the average consumer would consider stylish enough for daily use. Hardware manufacturers must also consider the daily functionality of these devices, as well as the computational and battery power required to run the content that blends in seamlessly with the reality (ie, replicate what the HoloLens and Magic Leap One best fit, but through a smaller form factor).

And hardware manufacturers must also be able to offer smart glasses at a price that reflects the value of the package. A pair of smartglasses that offer the same relative functionality as a smartwatch will probably not sell many devices if priced as a smartphone. Conversely, in some cases, an AR headset manufacturer with desire can get an uneven form factor and a higher price to deliver state-of-the-art functionality.

Cover image via Microsoft / YouTube

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