What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes computer-generated images and information over a user’s view of the real world. It enhances one’s current perception of reality with virtual elements, creating a more immersive experience. AR can be experienced through devices such as smartphones, tablets, smart glasses, and head-mounted displays.
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The potential of AR/VR devices is growing with every passing year and so is the number of applications using AR/VR technology. AR/VR devices are used for various purposes by consumers. The wearables help a consumer in different areas such as healthcare, education, information transfer, etc. The use of these AR/VR-based wearable products is also increasing with each passing year.
Companies have engaged themselves in manufacturing these AR/ VR devices and encourage consumers to use these devices to generate higher revenues.
HW and SW Technology Requirements for AR
For augmented reality to be functional, it requires a more innovative combination of hardware & software technology. Augmented reality works by superimposing a digital image, which is computer generated, onto the real world.
It requires high computation power to augment the additional contextual information with the real world. So, the hardware should be capable enough to process the required parameters in real time. Also to see the effects of augmented reality, we need 3D viewers and browsers meant for augmented reality.
The hardware required for augmented reality should allow us to track and measure as well as map the surrounding environments. The software should capture the incoming data, make sense of it by doing the required processing and superimpose it onto the real world.
As far as hardware is concerned, it requires input as well as output devices, which are mostly sensors, cameras, processors, GPS, etc. The output device has a display like that of a smartphone or Head Mounted Display (HMD) or Head-Up Display (HUD) that is worn on the head and has a small display in front of the eyes.
To experience augmented reality, it is required to build a 3D model which would overlay the augmented contextual information onto the real world. To build, configure and test the 3D model, we require 3D modeling software. Specially designed 3D modeling software is available to have exclusive augmented reality capabilities, functions, and features.
As compared to smartphones, it is not convenient to carry an HMD around anywhere and anytime; therefore, developers are now focusing on creating AR experiences especially for smartphones. Smart phones are becoming more powerful day by day and are considered good to be used as an augmented reality device.
They are equipped with all the hardware components required for augmented reality like sensors, camera, processor, display, GPS, etc., and also their app culture and the app ecosystem are very familiar to the consumers. All this helps in the widespread adoption of augmented reality technology into a wider market and across various sectors.
As far as software is concerned, many tools, platforms, viewers, and browsers are available for the development of augmented reality apps. Some of the most common and popular augmented reality development software are listed as follows:
- AR Toolkit
- SLAR toolkit
- FLAR toolkit
- AR-media plug-in for Google SketchUp
- Unifeye Mobile
- Total immersion – D’Fusion Studio
Business Models in AR
There are mostly two business models that are in practice in the world of technology. These are:
- Business to Business (B2B)
- Business to Consumer (B2C)
In the case of the mobile app business, the B2C model is very popular as the awareness of mobile and the app world is very high among consumers. But this is not the case with augmented reality. The awareness of AR among consumers is still very low. So the B2C model seems to be unfit at this moment.
For example, consider the case of Microsoft HoloLens. Instead of going with the B2C model, they are using the B2B model. They are hoping to reach the consumers through their branded and targeted experiences. Microsoft is selling the HoloLens apps by customizing them to businesses and in that way trying to reach the consumers through their immersive experiences. According to Microsoft, this model is Business to Business to Consumer (B2B2C)
B2B2C integrates Business Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) for making transactions of an entire product or service.
There are other business models followed by different players in the field of augmented reality. These models are based on the kind of offerings they intend to provide. These business models can be listed as follows:
- AR hardware
- AR platforms
- AR services
- AR products and games
- AR apps
- AR for enterprises
- AR content management tool
- AR for e-commerce
- AR for advertising
- AR mobile network data
- AR subscriptions
Privacy Concern for AR
Augmented reality enhances our interaction and also the perception of the physical world. But at the same time, it poses certain risks which can not and must not be ignored. Privacy is a major concern in the world of augmented reality.
For making use of this technology, we expose many of our personal and social points which may become a threat for us by stealing or compromising our privacy and thereby making us vulnerable to external threats/hacks. In some cases, these may become very serious and may damage our personal as well as social life.
As we use augmented reality devices and services, it collects data like our interactions, activities, personal space, geolocation data, etc. It continuously collects and monitors this information and may use it for advertising or may be sold to third parties or for some other purposes. All this captured data is treated as a ‘business asset’ and would be used and manipulated for the profitability and the associated concerns of the business.
Our actions and activities in the virtual and augmented world may be translated and modified for use in the effects and actions of the real physical world and it may prove to be very dangerous and harmful not just to us but also to all our contacts, relations and may be to the society as a whole.
The key considerations for such systems should be the transparency and clarity of the various policies concerning the use and manipulation of the collected user data. There should be shared control of the data.
If the augmented reality devices and the services we are using get compromised or hacked by a third party or get affected by malware, we may be completely denied access to the services and the devices or get trapped in the hands of the wrong people. So, if rely completely on these devices, then it will create havoc and will affect us dearly.
Though certain data protection and privacy clauses are available, they may not be sufficient or strong enough to protect our privacy as most of the augmented reality applications and devices ask for permissions to have access to our data, contacts, storage, camera, and network connections, etc. before we can make use of their services and the devices.
So, we must be aware and very concerned about our privacy and should be very cautious while making use of these technologies as they may bring harm to our personal life as well as our relations and social life.
AR for Enterprise
AR will have a greater impact on enterprises. It is already being seen in the form of Google Glasses, Microsoft HoloLences, Snapchat Spectacles, Pokemon Go, etc. In enterprises, augmented reality will have a strong future.
By using AR-based applications, enterprises can derive significant ‘Productivity Benefits’. As per one of the surveys in 2016-17, about 67% of enterprises are planning to adopt AR in their enterprises. Due to its business-oriented kind of applications, AR has a very strong potential to succeed and grow in the enterprise.
There are many AR apps that are mainly focused on the enterprises and are already making a difference in the enterprises functionality. There are various sectors and domains across a chain of enterprises such as design, manufacturing, marketing, e-commerce, retail, educa- tion, tourism, and medical, etc. where AR is promising multifold advantages.
In a retailing enterprise, the warehouse and returns costs can be reduced drastically by using shopping-focused, more practical AR apps. This would result in millions and billions of saving for such enterprises. Consumers can try products in their homes in real dimensions, colors, and styles and can place an order accordingly without worrying whether the product will fit/suit their homes.
This is one of the biggest advantages AR has to offer to the enterprise. It would reduce products’ returns resulting in huge cost savings for the enterprises and greater customer satisfaction. One of the successful uses of AR in advertising is made by the enterprise ‘Snap Inc.’ This enterprise has an ‘AR AD Patents’.
This is concerning the ‘Image Recognition’ and the ‘Contextual Ad placement’ mechanism. To generate more consistent revenue from marketing, it designed and developed an AR-based ‘Automated Ad Platform’. The ads that are shown on top of the real world are augmented reality-based ads.
In the design and construction industry, we can have an entire apartment designed in augmented reality. To have a disrupting success of AR in enterprises, educating the masses at a vast level is required. It will involve letting people know about the technology, how it works, what can be done with it and why one should go for it. Once it starts happening, augmented reality will get momentum in the enterprise at a very large scale.
In education, training, and retail enterprises, a ‘3D Computer Model’ can be superimposed onto a ‘Real World Object’ and that also in real-time by using augmented reality. In enterprises, AR can be used to create user-friendly product manuals and visualizations, interactive catalogs, and step-by-step instructions and guidelines for staff as well as consumer training, etc.
AR 3D Viewer and Browser
3D viewers and browsers are tools that are powerful enough to display augmented reality apps. They enable their users to fly or go through the full AR model which they have created for AR apps. They also give their users full control over the ‘Flight Path’ the users have taken, in order to view the intended features the users wish to see or examine.
Augmented reality 3D viewers enable us to put ‘life-size’ 3D models in our environment. It can be done by making use of trackers or without them. Trackers are just simple images that can be attached to 3D models in augmented reality.
Augmented reality browsers display the contextual information along with the object on the screen of a camera. For example, when we point your smartphone to a particular object say ‘building’, it would display the contextual information such as the history, the estimated value, etc. of the building in real-time along with the building itself.
Without making extensive use of 3D models, augmented real- ity would not become a reality. For example, suppose we want to see something relevant/virtual on top of an image by tracking it, then we require a 3D model. This 3D model has the capability to display the augmented information in the virtual 3D world that is supposed to exist over the real world that can be seen through the camera of our device. You can see the things happening by using the 3D viewers and browsers.
One of the many specialities of augmented reality 3D viewers and browsers is that they need to be truly real-time. Everything should and must be calculated at the present moment. They need to be interactive and respond in real time to our actions.
3D enables us to interact with the ‘virtual three-dimensional objects’ over the ‘real three-dimensional world’. With this capability, when an image is brought in front of a ‘camera’, we can see a ‘3D model’ over that image in real-time on the screen.
Because of the compelling applications across various sectors, augmented reality 3D viewers and browsers are becoming very attractive and popular. They make use of the geolocation points and provide the user with a better perception and more informed view of the objects and the surroundings. For example, it can display the hotel names along with the rates, and customers’ feedback.
An augmented reality browser can also show us the location of nearest restaurants/hotels along with the menus, special offers and wait times if any in real time. At that instance of time, if any special discounts or promotional offers and coupons are being provided by the respective restaurants, would also be displayed on the users’ screen.
Augmented reality would probably be used more on smartphones and mobile gadgets as it is very easy and convenient to carry them anywhere and anytime. So, keeping an eye on this trend, most of the augmented reality 3D viewers and browsers are now being developed for these smartphones and mobile gadgets. Some well-known and very popular AR browsers are ‘Wikitude’, ‘Layar’ and ‘Junaio’.
Augmented Reality SDKS
Augmented reality Software Development Kits (SDKs) provide a software development platform for developing AR applications. There are two kinds/categories of applications that can be built for the augmented reality environment. These apps can:
- Marker/Image based
- GPS based
Accordingly, there are different augmented reality SDKs available for making particular apps. Some well-known examples of the SDKs in the marker/image-based category are as follows:
- AR toolkit
- SLAR toolkit
- FLAR toolkit
- AR-media plug-in for Google Sketchup
- NyAR toolkit
- Unifeye mobile
- Total immersion – D’Fusion Studio
Some examples of the SDKs in the GPS based category are as follows:
These categories of SDKs are not that rigid. In most cases, the difference is blurring and the SDKs have the capability to support the development of both kinds of AR apps.
In the marker/image-based applications, an image or a marker in the real world is overlaid with the relevant information or content. This is done by identifying an image or a marker in the real world and then calculating some parameters like its orientation, position etc. to aug- ment the reality.
In the GPS based applications, we make use of the GPS tool available in the smartphone. GPS is a Global Positioning System. The application uses the location of your phone to find out the ‘landmark’ or some other ‘Point of Interest’.
Once it is known, the user can obtain additional information about the point or location or get the required directions to reach to that point. The user can learn many and real time things about various places and points of interests by simply using their smartphones.
What is Augmented Desktop?
An augmented desktop revolutionizes the process of editing, uploading as well as previewing the augmented reality ‘Three-Dimensional Models’. It provides the tools and the needed effects to bring life to the augmented reality models. It simplifies the configuration and preview of the models being built for the augmented reality applications.
The Augment desktop provides the needed preview accuracy. It may happen that when you build a 3D model and upload it to the cloud, it may not look the same as it was looking in the 3D modeling software. Tweaking the model and re-uploading it several times would be a painful and tiring task. The augment desk has many features like:
- Preview accuracy
- Material configurations
- Animation triggers
The augment desktop provides easy and very efficient capabilities to preview, adjust and configure the models before uploading. It would make the task simpler and free us for our core work.
It gives us various options to configure and try multiple materials as well as textures for the same model/object. Your intended consumer may have a look at the product by trying different fabrics and colors and get a feel of the final product.
With the help of click events, you can trigger the animations on the 3D models. The Augment desktop provides a node-based visual system for editing the animations such that they would play as the viewer or the consumer interacts with them when trying them using the Augment app.
Thus, it can be seen that the Augment desktop is very flexible and proves to be a very useful desktop for editing, uploading, configuring and previewing your 3D models that are built for the augmented real- ity applications.