Whether you’re noticing it or not Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are developing at incredible speeds right now. Apple, Google, Microsoft and other tech giants have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their AR initiatives in recent years, both software and hardware.
I’m quite sure everyone has heard the term, but for those of you not entirely sure what it means, here’s a short summary: AR is a layer of information that’s presented on top of real world objects, it provides an interactive experience of a real world environment where the objects are “augmented” by computer generated perceptual information. VR or Virtual Reality, on the other hand, is a completely virtual world that you can experience in 3D (by wearing a headset that isolates your vision from the real world) but the only thing that’s the same in actual reality and VR is the existence of 3D space.
Now, with that out of the way, back to the title of this post – where are we already using AR solutions today, and which are the areas where this technology is still to play an integral role.
1. Assembly workers / mechanics
Imagine you’re the engineer in charge of assembling an airplane engine. There are hundreds of moving parts that you need to go through. Obviously the process is normally broken down into smaller steps and across multiple people to speed up the production. But if each employee wore a set of AR glasses and followed instructions presented to them in real time not only would this speed up the training but also make it a whole lot easier for one person to do more steps, since you don’t have to follow a written manual or try to memorize the sequence.
2. Furniture / clothing fit
Ikea, Waywaif, Houzz etc. it now seems like every company that sells some furniture has an app to help you “fit” potential furniture items in your home using AR before you buy them. This is probably the most popular real life AR application outside of the gaming world. Mainly because how truly useful the solution is. You no longer need to carry a measuring tape around, and try to visualize how certain things will look in your home – now you just open an app on your phone for that. The same idea is also being applied to fashion: Zara, Uniqlo, Gap, Nike and many other brands have launched AR initiatives with the goal to make trying on / fitting clothes and shoes easier and more efficient.
3. Medical training / surgery
Perhaps the most important area discussed on this list. Medicine… There already are AI (Artificial Intelligence) smartphone apps that can diagnose dermatological issues and even suggest treatment without the involvement of an actual doctor. But AR is what will make doctors more precise and efficient, without actually replacing the human element. Live vital functions data in front of the doctor’s eyes while performing surgery is just one of the potential applications. AR will benefit where precision and speed matter most.
4. Navigation / shopping
Multiple companies (including Google, Volkswagen, Alibaba etc.) are working on AR navigation tools that would allow navigation information to be displayed in front of the drivers eyes. There are apps that allow you to do this right now (like Phiar) but you still need to use the smartphone’s screen. Volkswagen is working on a solution that would be built into the vehicle’s windshield, but once compatible / lightweight headsets come out this will become a mainstream application of AR.
5. Gaming / entertainment
Psst, this is where Questful fits in… This is probably the most developed area of all the ones mentioned on this list. You can already find tens of AR gaming apps on your phone, but most of them are still just concept testing experiments. And many of them don’t really interact with physical objects in the real world, so although it’s fun to see things happen in AR they are not really adding value. Our approach with Questful is different – we wanted to create a scavenger hunt experience using the capabilities of modern technology and thus make it more engaging and interesting.
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