What is Augmented Reality?
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that enhances our perception of the real world by overlaying digital information on top of it. With AR, users can see virtual objects and information placed onto the physical environment around them, creating a more immersive and interactive experience.
AR has a wide range of applications, from gaming and entertainment to education and training. The gaming industry leverages AR to actively immerse players in experiences that seamlessly blend real world and virtual elements. For instance, Pokémon Go, a popular AR game, allows players to catch virtual creatures that appear in the physical world through their smartphone cameras.
Educators actively leverage AR to create highly interactive and engaging learning experiences. For example, AR applications help students visualize complex scientific concepts like anatomy or the solar system in an immersive, hands-on manner.
Apart from its influence on gaming and education, AR also enhances numerous industries, enabling them to craft captivating experiences and unlock new possibilities. For instance, these industries include retail, healthcare, and manufacturing.
In retail, AR enables customers to virtually try on clothing and accessories, visualizing how products fit before purchasing. Healthcare professionals leverage AR to actively visualize medical procedures and assist surgeons during operations. Manufacturers deploy AR solutions to troubleshoot production processes in real-time and visualize workflow. This reduces the need for physical prototypes, saving manufacturers time and resources.
Evolution of Augmented Reality
Augmented reality has come a long way since its early beginnings in the 1990s. The term “augmented reality” was coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, an engineer at Boeing. He used AR technology to help workers assemble cables into airplane wings. Back then, AR required specialized and bulky headsets that were tethered to computers. This limited AR to specific industrial uses.
The mobile revolution in the 2000s enabled AR to break out of niche industrial applications. Smartphones contained sensors and cameras that could track a user’s environment. In 2009, AR mobile apps like Acrossair’s NYCMetro and Wikitude started popping up. These overlaid digital information on top of real world views from the phone’s camera. Suddenly AR was accessible to consumers.
But these early AR apps had limitations. They required users to download large apps which drained battery and storage. And they could only access limited AR content within each app. The biggest breakthrough came when Apple released ARKit in 2017 and Google launched ARCore in 2018. These toolkits enabled any app developer to integrate AR into their apps using the phone’s camera.
Today, AR is moving beyond mobile apps. WebAR allows AR experiences right in the mobile web browser, without needing to download any apps. Companies like Google, Apple and Mozilla are building AR capabilities into the core of mobile web browsers. Today, users are accessing AR content as easily as clicking a link or watching a video online.
Benefits of Augmented Reality
As we mentioned above, AR is revolutionizing the way consumers view and interact with products before purchasing. Here are some of the key benefits AR provides for viewing products:
- Try before you buy – AR allows consumers to virtually try on products like clothes, makeup, accessories, and furniture in their own space before buying. Apps like Warby Parker and Sephora use AR to let you see products in real-world contexts.
- Assess size and fit – AR gives accurate sizing information so consumers can check if a product will fit in their intended space. For example, our configurators let you view 3D models in your room to see if a couch or lamp will fit. You can check here, how we utilize AR in our 3D configurators.
- View detail – Get up close with high-resolution 3D models to inspect details and textures not visible in static photos. This helps make more informed purchases.
- Fun and interactive – AR makes viewing products more immersive and experiential vs static images. The interactivity helps consumers engage more deeply with products.
- Accessibility – AR makes it easier for those with disabilities or mobility challenges to try and assess products from home before purchasing.
With AR’s advantages, consumers get to virtually try before they buy. WebAR can be accessed instantly by anyone with a smartphone and internet connection, without needing to download a specific app. This removes friction for consumers to engage with AR product experiences, while also reducing product returns and creating more informed shopping experiences overall. AR is redefining product viewing and engagement for the better.
The evolution of AR from bulky headsets to mobile apps to web-based experiences has greatly expanded its reach. Although early AR had niche industrial applications, today’s AR actively enhances a versatile range of consumer and business use cases. As technology continues to advance and become more widely available, we can expect to see even more innovative and creative applications of AR in the future.
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