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The Ultimate Guide to Augmented Reality (AR)
Technology

Introduction to AR

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Augmented Reality may not be as interesting as a
Virtual reality roller coaster ride, but it is now becoming a very useful tool
in our daily activities

May it be filters on snapchat and Instagram or
surgical operations and procedures, ARs popularity is increasing greatly mainly
because it merges elements of the virtual world with the real world, hence
enhancing our senses that is, everything hear, see, feel and touch.  AR amongst all reality technologies lies in
the mixed reality spectrum of the real and virtual world

AR Definition

AR noun

“A version of reality we interpret that is enriched or
augmented  based on the real physical
world, with computer generated virtual graphics thus enabling the interpreter
to be able to interpret a more enhanced perception of his or her reality.”

 

 

AR Explained simply

The meaning of the word augment is to enrich or add
something. In AR, visuals, audio aid, touch feedback are added in our real
world to create an enhanced experience for the user.

Augmented Reality vs Virtual Reality

 

In the case of Virtual Reality, one needs to immerse
oneself in an entirely computer generated simulated world. But AR, uses our
natural world and overlays virtual computer generated information on top of it.
Both these realities then co-exist and users experience an improved version of
the natural world where the simulated information is used as either assistance
or entertainment for daily activities

Applications
that use AR could be as basic as a
text-notification or as complex as advanced guidelines or instructions on how
to operate a dangerous and life-threatening clinical/surgical/medical procedure.
They can heighten understandings and even offer accessible and timely data. The
crux and main point is that the information you perceive is highly augmented
and extremely relevant to your task.

Types of AR AR (AR) Categories

Several categories of AR technology exist, each with
varying differences in their objectives and applicational use cases.
Below, we explore the various types of technologies that make up AR:

Marker Based AR

Marker-based
AR (also called Image Recognition) uses a camera and some type of visual
marker, such as a QR/2D code, to produce a result only when the marker is
sensed by a reader. Marker based applications use a camera on the device to
distinguish a markerfrom any other real world object. Distinct, but
simple patterns (such as a QR code) are used as the markers, because they can be easily
recognized and do not require a lot of processing power to read. The position
and orientation is also calculated, in which some type of content and/or
information is then overlaied the marker.

Markerless AR

As
one of the most widely implemented applications of AR, markerless (also called
location-based, position-based, or GPS) AR, uses a GPS, digital compass, velocity meter, or
accelerometer which is embedded in the device to provide data based on your
location. A strong force behind markerless AR technology is the wide
availability of smartphones and location detection features they provide. It is
most commonly used for mapping directions, finding nearby businesses, and other
location-centric mobile applications.

Projection Based AR

.

AR
that is based on projections, works by projecting artificial light on surfaces.
Applications that use this sort of a AR that is based on projections allow
human interaction by sending light on a real surface and then it sense the
human response that is, touch, on that projected light which will basically act
like a touch screen. It is easy to detect a user interaction, the application differentiates
between a probable or certain projection and the reformed projection which is
caused by the users response. It is also possible to project three dimensional
that is 3D interactive hologram using laser plasma technology and the
projection based AR tech

 

 

 

 

Superimposition Based AR

Superimposed
AR replaces entirely or partly the unique view of an item with a brand new
augmented vision of that particular object, in this form of AR the role of item
recognition is extremely vital because the AR app cannot obviously replace the
original item with an enhanced version if it us unable to determine what item
or object it is. A very evident consumer oriented example of AR based on
superimposition would be the IKEA AR furniture catalogue. You are meant to
download an app and then scan the pages you select in the printed version of
IKEA’s digital catalogue, users are enabled to choose and place ikea furniture
in their home just by pointing the camera at the location where you want it to
be placed.

How Does AR really work?

For us to understand how AR technology functions, we
need to understand its purpose and objective, which is to bring virtually
generated items in to the real world for the user to be able to see.

In the most commonly used AR apps, a user is able to
see both types of light, synthetic and natural. This is achieved by overlaying
virtual images on to a pair of glasses or goggles that are transparent which
then enables the visuals and interactive computer generated objects to layer on
top of the user’s real world view. We also need to take a note of the fact that
AR devices are standalone, which also means that unlike HTC Vire VR head sets
or the OCULUS Rift, they are fully unstrapped and do not require any cables or
computer devices to operate.

How do AR Devices operate on the inside?

Enhanced Realities can be displayed on a large variety
of displays, from monitors and screens of desktops or projected screens to hand
held devices to glasses. Head Up displays and Google Glass managed to place
this form of reality directly onto your head/face mainly in the form of
headgear and/or eye glasses. Hand held devices mainly include small screens
that easily fit in the users hands. The advancement of this technology
indicates that they will eventually require lesser hardware. It is possible
that AR will soon be applied to objects like retinal display or contact lenses
just like in the movies.

 

 

Key Components to AR Devices

Sensors and Cameras

In
case of an AR device, Sensors are usually on the outside. They gather the user’s
natural world stimuli and transfer this information to be interpreted and then
processed.

Cameras
too are placed on the outside of the AR device. These too are used to scan and
collect data about the user’s real world and surroundings. The processors in
the devices take this information, which almost always governs where the
neighboring physical objects are located, then communicates a digital mode to
give out close to accurate output. If we take the Microsoft HoloLens, each
camera performs specific tasks, for instance depth sensing. These Cameras,
often work in a cyclic mode with two “environment interpreting cameras” often
on each of the sides of the device. Another camera that is very commonly used
is the regular, multiple megapixel camera (something like the ones used in
smartphones) to record snaps, videos and also the information required to for
the augmentation function to operate.

 

·        
Projection

We
now know that projection based AR is a category in itself but in this case I am
are referring to a smaller version of the projector that we can often find in
outward and forward facing positions on wearable AR headsets. The purpose of
the projector is to mainly turn any surface into an interactive screen or
interface. As mentioned in the above paragraph, the data that is inputted by
the cameras that are essentially used to inspect the surrounding world, is
processed and then it is projected on to a surface in front of the user. This
could include a paper; a wall, a palm, a table etc. This also indicates that
the use of projection in AR devices, will impact the use of electronic screens
and eventually lessen their importance of this component. Hence this means
that; in the near future you may not necessarily need a phone or tablet or even
a real poker table in a casino, to play a game of poker because you will able
to play it on your table top that is available to you in that moment.

Processing

Processing
AR devices are in the most basic sense, miniature supercomputers packaged into
small wearable devices. These obviously require a significant level of computer
processing power and they consume a lot of the components that we use in our
mobile devices. The list of components used in these devices include a
Graphical Processing Unit (GPU), a Central Processing Unit (CPU), RAM,
Bluetooth or Wifi microchip, Global Positioning System (GPS) microchip and some
more. More advanced AR devices like HoloLens use an accelerometer (a device
used to measure the speed in which the users head is moving), a magnetometer (that
mainly works as a compass that tries to gauge which direction the users head is
pointing at) and a gyroscope (this measures the tilt and orientation of the
users head). These devices help the user indulge in a truly immersive
experience

Reflection

To
assist AR devices to be able to gauge the function of the user being able to
view the computerized Image. The kind of mirrors these devices have varies in a
way that, some of these devices may have simple double sized mirrors having one
surface reflecting the arriving light attached to a side mounted camera and the
other surface reflects the light from a side mounted display to the user’s eye.
Some devices may also have multiple small curved mirrors like in the Magic Leap
AR device. In the Microsoft HoloLens, things work slightly differently, the so
called mirrors that are used, include transparent holographic lenses (referred
to as waveguides by Microsoft) which use an optical projection arrangement to
direct holograms into the users eyes. A light engine then gives out light
towards 2 different lenses that focuses on one eye each. This is made of 3 layers
of glass that have 3 distinct primary colors, i.e. Blue, Green, Red. The light
first goes through these layers then enters the eyes at specific angles,
intensifies and colors, finally fabricating a whole structured image on the
retina of the human eye. It doesn’t matter what the method used for this
purpose is, all these reflection paths have the same purpose i.e. to assist the
image alignment with the user’s eye.

How is AR Controlled

Here we will discuss the Human computer interface part
of interacting with these AR devices. These devices are often controlled by voice commands
or touch. The touch pads are placed in such a position on the device that it is
easy to access them without any unnecessary effort. Touch pads work by sensing
the pressure changes that take place when the user taps or swipes on a
particular spot on the screen.

Voice command on the other hand, work very similar to
the way our smartphones work. A small mic in the device will scan and input the
user’s voice and a microprocessor will interpret the commands. There is list of
commands that are already preprogrammed that are used by the Google Glass AR
device. ‘OK, Glass’ is the command that is used to activate the device,
alerting it to be ready for the command that is going to follow next. For
instance, ‘OK, Glass, Please take a snap for me’ this command will activate the
system then send a command to the microprocessor to take a picture of whatever
you’re pointing the glass at.

AR Use Case Example: Healthcare

A lot of successful AR companies are doing well mainly
by helping veteran industries opt for and apply AR technology into their unique
and specific business needs. A very important example in this case would be the
use of AR in the industry of health care. AR can provide a lot of benefits and
efficient service to each end of the spectrum i.e. the healthcare professional
and the patient, from a basic health checkup to a very intricate surgical
procedure.

Physical Exams

 

Integration of AR assisted
systems with patient record management technologies is already highly desirable
utility. Data integrity and accessibility is a major benefit to this type of
system, where record access becomes instantaneous and consistent across all
professionals to the most current records, instructions, and policies.

 

We can hypothetically imagine
to schedule an appointment with our regular doctor and on the day of the
appointment walk into the cabin to find him or her wearing an AR head set,
maybe a google glass device. Even if it looks strange to us, this device is
actually helping him access past records, view images, and any other relevant
data that is stored in your records or of help to him so that he can discuss
this with you in real time. Being able to instantly access patient records and
data without using a computer or needing to manually find patient files from
the record room translate to a very beneficial aspect to healthcare
professionals. In fact the integration of patient record management
technologies and AR assisted systems is in high demands due to its desirability
in the medical industry. Benefits that we get from such a system include
accessibility and Data Integrity, in which the ability to access records is
multiplied by instant access and the consistency across all professionals about
all policies, instructions and current updates.

Surgical Procedures

 

In a hypothetical situation,
let us imagine that we will be performing a surgical procedure. The doctor is
wearing an AR head set. This headset will provide the doctor with vital
information like the patients’ health stats, vital signs and history and even
Instructions or checklist needed for the surgery. AR technologies in the
medical field can assist professionals by providing interfaces like graphical
overlay-based supervision or guidance, recording procedures, enabling live
feeds for remote users, immediate access to the patients past records, project
images on any part of the body or merge them with real time scanned images. The
advantages of using this technology include reduced risks of errors while
treating the patient or performing a surgical operation. And reduced risk of
infection or contamination if the AR device is enabling the doctors to access
information hands free. This also speed up the whole process.

 

Questions that
will be covered and answered in this section include.

Hence we now have a broader
understanding of what AR technology really is.

The Concept. It’s Algorithm.

Types of AR technologies.

Technical aspects of how it is
implemented.

What are the various parts
that go into the making of these devices?

How are these parts supposed
to work in sync with each other, interpret the input data command and output
the desired augmentation?

Which fields are these used
in?

How are they implemented in these
fields?

How beneficial are they
proving to be?

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