How augmented reality changes our lives

31 October, 2019

~ 5 minute read




What happens when reality mixes with fantasy? When something we wish to see or `feel` can actually be seen or felt with the help of technology?

The main features of augmented reality, a combination of real and virtual worlds, real-time interaction and accurate 3D registration of virtual and real objects [ 1 ], allow us to do just that. Augmented reality technology is based on interactive digital elements being superimposed onto real-world objects and environments. This technology is continuously refined and perfected and is increasingly capable of blurring the lines between real and virtual life.

The very notion of altering reality and combining human and artificial intelligence is embodied by the concept of Humanistic Intelligence, especially today in the context of wearable computing (wearing electric objects such as smartphones or wristwatches over or under clothing).

The connection between Human Intelligence and wearable computers was best described by Marvin Minsk, Ray Kurzweil, and Steve Mann who explain:

“when a wearable computer embodies HI and becomes so technologically advanced that its intelligence matches our own biological brain, something much more powerful emerges from this synergy that gives rise to superhuman intelligence within the single ‘cyborg’ being.” [ 2 ]

Girl with Vuzix AR glasses on k7Tech



The very idea of merging human reality with technology in order to enhance the user experience has been with us for quite some time. However, it is hard to pinpoint the very beginning of it because it is widely used in all industries, sport, film, photography, health and computer technology to name a few.

In this article, we are considering a number of historic uses of AR.

The 1900s - Film and science fiction

Back in 1901 came one of the earliest mentions of AR. The renown author L. Frank Baum (most known for children’s book `The wonderful wizard of Oz`) first alluded to the idea of electronic spectacles that transmit information to real-life in his book `The master key`.These spectacles help learn about a person in front of you by writing letters on their foreheads.

`It consists of this pair of spectacles. While you wear them everyone you meet will be marked upon the forehead with a letter indicating his or her character. The good will bear the letter G, the evil the letter E. The wise will be marked with a W and the foolish with an F. The kind will show a K upon their foreheads and the cruel a letter C. Thus you may determine by a single look the true natures of all those you encounter.` - Frank Baum. [ 3 ]

Moving on to 2010s and you can see the same idea with `smart spectacles`, smart glasses, being used in the context of wearable computing.

The 1960s - The era of AR for fighter jets
AR in modern fighter Jets image k7 tech
By Telstar Logistics - flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5883242



`My job was to solve the problem of getting the bandwidth to and from the pilot`s brain given the sheer complexity of the systems they needed to operate in highly stressful and dangerous environments. This problem is what motivated me to explore augmented reality approaches that might increase pilot awareness of the relationship of their aircraft and to the real world. The idea was to organize and portray information in the form of virtual images projected and superimposed over the real world via helmet-worn devices.`

These are the words of Tom Furness, a pioneer in virtual reality who worked on enhancing cockpits for fighter aircraft after being commissioned in the Air Force.

In the same decade the invention of head-up-display (HUD), which helps pilots find the critical information they need directly on the screen inside the windshield, came into existence. It was first developed for aircraft in WWII, was widely used in the 60s until it found its new use in civil application in 1993. (as seen in the picture above)

1962 - Sensorama

In 1962 a cinematographer called Morton Heilig saw the opportunity to enhance the experience of watching film and theater with the help of a multi-sensory mechanical device. He created Sensorama with which the user can experience a simulation of a real-life motorcycle ride through the city. `Experience Theater` as he called it, consists of audio and visual systems as well as an odor emitter and a motional chair.

Sensorama Machine - the very beggining of AR k7 tech
By Minecraftpsyco - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47304870
1990s - Glowing hockey pucks

Augmented reality has also been present in sports but most notably in hockey. The glowing pucks were upgraded with shock sensors and infrared emitters which were read by the camera sensors on the field. Together they made visuals on screens of the viewers’ televisions so that they can better follow the movement of the pucks.

Furthermore, AR has an important role in sports marketing, practice and following tournaments. To assist judges to decide who won the game of tennis or football, to name a few sports, augmented reality steps in with the 3D representation of the ball’s path and helps to determine whether the ball touched the line.

2000 and later

This technology is developing quickly. In 2016 we have seen the effect a mobile game called Pokemon Go had had on its users (at one point over 25 million users per day). The game was so immersive that millions of kids and adults were walking the streets and public spaces (sometimes recklessly) looking for virtual prizes with their phones.

We already mentioned `smart spectacles` which can help tell good from the bad people in Frank Baum’s work. Now we have smart glasses such as Google glasses or Vuzix blade which function in a similar way as smartphones when it comes to AR, but clearly have a different form which has its own advantages and appeal.

So, what is the future of AR?

More and more businesses are using iOS and Android applications to help them grow. Implementing AR helps customers imagine how their products can be used. Take for example fashion brands - this technology can show the customers how clothing looks on a `real-life` model.

If we look at the numbers, the experts predict that the revenue of AR and VR will surpass $35 Billion by 2025 and the number of its users will surpass 315 Million. [ 4 ] With AR having found its use in medicine, education, sports, biology, and science in general, it is safe to say this technology will continue to improve and spread onto other fields.

Written by Jana Škobić

Sources:

[ 1 ] Wu, Hsin-Kai; Lee, Silvia Wen-Yu; Chang, Hsin-Yi; Liang, Jyh-Chong (March 2013). "Current status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education". Computers & Education. 62: 41–49. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.024.

[ 2 ] "The Society of Intelligent Veillance", by Kurzweil, Minsky, and Mann, in Proceedings of the IEEE ISTAS 2013, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, pp13-17.

[ 3 ] Johnson, Joel. "The Master Key": L. Frank Baum envisions augmented reality glasses in 1901 Mote & Beam 10 September 2012.

[ 4 ] Augbrite blog: VR/AR Trend: Statistics and Future Prognosis https://augbrite.com/blog/ar_vr_future_prognosis

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