Exploring Augmented Reality Form Factors and Hardware

Exploring Augmented Reality

If you’ve ever used a street view service to get to know a neighborhood before you travel or an interior decoration app to see what furniture looks like in your living room, you’ve already experienced augmented reality (AR). 

In this guide, we shall explore how augmented reality works, different forms of AR, hardware, usage, and adoption, as well as what the future holds. 

What is Augmented Reality?

The term “augmented reality” has been around for several decades. It is an interactive version of the real environment obtained through digital visuals, sounds, and other sensory stimuli. AR combines three features: the combination of the digital and physical worlds, real-time interactions, and accurate three-dimensional identification of virtual and real objects.

AR is regarded as future technology, though it’s already in adoption. This technology is poised to revolutionize the world and allow companies to gain market advantage. 

How Augmented Reality Works?

Augmented reality creates an immersive experience for all its users. Though the most common AR forms are through Augmented glasses or a camera lens, interest in AR is growing, and businesses are showcasing more types of lenses and hardware through the marketplace. 

There are five significant components of AR:

1. Artificial intelligence. 

Most augmented reality solutions need artificial intelligence (AI) to work, allowing users to complete actions using voice prompts. AI can also help process information for your AR application.

Artificial intelligence
Image Credit: geeksforgeeks

2. AR software.

These are the tools and applications used to access AR. Some businesses can create their own form of AR software.

3. Processing. 

You’ll need processing power for your AR technology to work, generally by leveraging your device’s internal operating system.

4. Lenses. 

You’ll need a lens or image platform to view your content or images. The better quality your screen has, the more realistic your image will appear.

5. Sensors. 

AR systems need to digest data about their environment to align the real and digital worlds. When your camera captures information, it sends it through software for processing.

Types of Augmented Reality Technologies

When deciding what type of Augmented Reality technology you will need for your business or personal use, you must first determine what kind of AR to use. There are four types of augmented reality. Choosing one of these types will determine how you can display your images and information. 

Marker-based AR: This type of AR relies on identifying user-defined markers/images. Markers are distinct patterns that cameras can easily recognize and process and are visually independent of their surrounding environment; these can be paper objects or physical objects in the real world.

Marker-less AR: Marker-less AR gives the user the most control, allowing them to choose where to place the content. It also allows you to place virtual, augmented objects on a real scale. These AR experiences rely heavily on smartphone features such as sensors, cameras, and processors.

Project-based AR: This type of AR involves rendering virtual objects in or on the user’s physical space. It is one of the simplest forms of AR, where light is projected onto a surface. Interaction takes place by physically touching the displayed surface.

Superimposition-based AR: Superimposition-based AR consists of wholly or partially replacing the original view of an object with an enlarged view of the same object.

Common Types of Augmented Reality Devices and Hardware

1. Heads-up Displays (HUDs)

These transparent displays present data to the user’s screen in front of their eyes. The user needs not to look away from the usual viewpoints.  Augmented reality is not limited to a reality wearable device and is being tested and implemented on phones, projectors, and PCs.

Heads-up Displays (HUDs)
Image Credit: sygic

2. Holographic Displays

These are augmented reality glasses that display 3D holograms overlaid on the real world where the user is located to render a mixed reality experience to the user. The hologram image is generated using light diffraction techniques.

Holographic Displays
Image Credit: linkedin

3. AR Smart Glasses

AR smart glasses are wearable computer-capable glasses that add extra information, ideally 3D images and information such as animations and videos, to the user’s real-world scenes by overlaying the computer-generated or digital information on the user’s real-world.

AR Smart Glasses
Image Credit: eenewseurope

4. Handheld AR Devices

This type of technology is implemented with handheld devices such as smartphones on which AR apps are installed to access and apply AR. Examples include using your smartphone to try out virtual furniture models on your house floor, on the IKEA app, or playing Pokemon Go on an AR app on your smartphone.

Handheld AR Devices
Image Credit: researchgate

5. AR Headsets

Augmented reality headsets are specialized, head-mounted display device that provides a simulated visual environment through physical display optic lenses, allowing the user to see both a digital display and the world through the glasses.

AR Headsets
Image Credit: mspoweruser

6. AR Contact Lenses:

These are types of contact lenses that are placed directly on the eye. These tiny displays project images onto the retina to provide a rich AR experience. Though at the developmental stage, they have the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with AR. 

AR Contact Lenses
Image Credit: roadtovr

7. AR Projectors

Augmented Reality projectors are used for all education levels to help students visualize and learn complicated subjects and understand abstract concepts.

AR Projectors
Image Credit: lightform

8. Smartphone AR headsets: 

Smartphone AR headsets
Image Credit: Amazon

These AR headsets employ the smartphone to generate AR environments. A smartphone can be slotted on a holder on the wearable AR headset that also has visors through which the user can view the real-world even as smartphone generated 

Tethered AR headsets: These are wire or cable-tethered on the smartphone or PC and made for a faster, more reliable, and more secure connection. Projections are overlaid above.

Wireless AR headsets: Even most of those in other categories would fall in this as long as they have wireless connectivity via WiFi, Bluetooth, and other methods. These devices may provide basic AR features, such as notifications, navigation, or fitness tracking.

Adoption Rate and Usability of Augmented Reality

While AR technology has seen significant growth and development, there are still several challenges that need to be addressed to fully realize its potential. 

Some of the key challenges of AR include;

Technical Limitations: The technology is still limited by the processing power and battery life of augmented reality mobile devices, which impact its performance and usability.

User Experience:  AR experiences can be difficult to use and navigate, especially for first-time users.  Improving the user experience and making AR more intuitive and user-friendly is a key challenge. 

Content creation: Creating high-quality AR content can be a complex and time-consuming process, requiring specialized skills and expertise. 

Standards and interoperability: There is a lack of standardization in the AR industry, which can make it difficult for different AR systems to work together and for content to be shared across platforms. 

Privacy and security: AR technology has the potential to collect and transmit sensitive information, raising concerns about privacy and security. 

Importance of Comfort and Ease of Use for AR Devices

AR Devices
Image Credit: digitaltveurope

AR has become increasingly popular in recent years in the realms of training, manufacturing, gaming, social setup, and office work.

The technology is being applied on different devices, and this calls for the need to ensure comfort and ease of use, for faster adoption.

To effectively use augmented reality (AR) technology for end-users, there is a need for design collaboration. AR is less intrusive and easier to apply to everyday life since it combines added digital elements with the physical world around you.

AR is actively developing, and many libraries and frameworks make life easier for developers and, ultimately, the end user.

What’s Next for Augmented Reality Hardware

We can expect to witness advancements in AR hardware, with sleeker and more powerful devices that seamlessly integrate into our daily lives. Augmented reality in fashion is gaining traction with the ability to perform virtual fitting before buying an outfit. Augmented reality video conferencing is another feature of AR that we could soon gain adoption across businesses and industries.

Imagine a future where augmented reality is seamlessly integrated into our homes, workplaces, and even outdoor spaces, enhancing our reality in ways we never thought possible.

The future of AR will most likely be closely tied to the ongoing developments in blockchain, NFTs, gaming, and the metaverse. It’s best to check with the hardware manufacturer for the latest information and updates. 

Besides industry-specific uses, many industries currently use AR apps to identify, track, and resolve technical issues. It can also help in other non-physical procedure cases such as marketing, advertising, entertainment, and many more.

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