Imagine experiencing your life, but plus.

Plus what? The sky is the limit. Your life plus more information. Your life plus more fun. Your life viewed in different shades or filters.

Augmented reality is a computing system dedicated to informing and enhancing the life you’re already living by adding helpful or fun information to the mix before your very eyes.

What is augmented reality, and how will it impact your life? Keep reading to find out.

What Is Augmented Reality?

You’ve probably heard the term bandied about, but do you know what augmented reality really is?

If you want to get technical, you can define AR by its components. It is:

  • Interactive
  • Reality-based
  • Display centered

Together, these components create a computer-generated experience that uses both screens and audio to enhance the way you experience the real world. More importantly, true AR doesn’t just send you messages – it allows you to talk back.

It’s like having Spidey powers: you’re still a human experiencing the world the way only humans can, but you’ve got some added information that changes the way you see it.

There are lots of ways to implement AR, and we’ll dive more into options for use later. But overall, it focuses on creating an audiovisual experience that enriches the user’s life.

Augmented Reality 101: Key Differences

To fully embrace AR, it’s important to know how it differs from the pack. For example, you’ll need to know the difference between virtual reality vs augmented reality.

If you’re using virtual reality and augmented reality interchangeably, then you’re likely using them wrong.

While both concepts are closely aligned in theory, they’re more like cousins than siblings. Virtual reality brings you on a fully immersed journey in a digital world. Wearing the Oculus Rift to play a video game is a good example.

Augmented reality differs in a very important way: it’s a way of experiencing the world you’re living – the real world.

In other words, both realities are mediated so that our perception of the reality changes. However, augmented reality works with the physical world you can already taste, smell, touch, and hear whereas virtual reality was created by the minds of designers.

How AR Works

How can an app or program alter your perception of your own reality? How does augmented reality work?

The answer to this grows more complicated by the day as new uses and codes are developed.

Augmented reality can be as simple as a display on your car dashboard. Does your car tell you how fast you’re going in miles per hour? Your car’s digital speedometer or GPS is a form of augmented reality because they change how you perceive the world around you or in this case your speed and location.

These are still the kinds of augmented reality devices you’re most likely to find in your everyday life. Sensors, cameras, display devices, and computer components generate illusions that fluidly permeate the world around you.

Still, it’s becoming more sophisticated by the day. The addition of video and 3D models complicate our world because they bring the digital sphere into our physical reality. We don’t encounter them every day, but they serve a purpose.

Have you been to the airport recently? If so, you’ve probably encountered a strange, person-size board the comes to life as passenger’s approach on their way to departures. The poor woman trapped in the screen repeats the same directions about liquids on airplanes over and over and over.

Fortunately, she’s not real. She’s a recorded video designed to attract your attention because she mimics a real human. And she is a real woman: an actress recorded the video. But you only see her in two-dimensional form over a speaker system.

She changes your perception of the world around you because as you approach her, she gives you the information you need. You’re more prepared to pass through a TSA checkpoint quickly if you take a moment to interact with her.

What’s Happening in Augmented Reality Right Now?

Augmented reality is booming. It was predicted to explode in 2017 – and it certainly did. In 2018, it’s expected to get every bigger.

Most of the high profile uses of augmented reality are found within tech and gaming. But its uses are becoming more apparent to other sectors as well. The innovative furniture brand Ikea recently created the Ikea place mobile app, which allows you to create a virtual home and place virtual furniture within it.

Not sure how that sofa would fit in your living room? Find out before you even request it from the warehouse.

But will augmented reality remain on our phones and screens? Or can it be used within accessories like glasses? The best example is the Google Glass, which launched to much acclaim only to crash and burn fiscally. It’s hard to blame them – making a good-looking pair of AR glasses is both a science and an art and one no one has mastered yet.

Augmented reality news focuses heavily on new products like fun filters. But there are important ways that AR could change the future of our existing tech and supplement our lives.

For example, you could switch out your phone or console-based maps program for a pair of AR glasses or contact lenses that allow you to focus on the road in front of you even when following complicated directions.

The idea isn’t far off: the latest built-in GPS systems in cars already share directions, map, and travel info as well as the nearest restaurants, gas stations, and alternative routes.

Playtime is another part of the day expected to be altered by AR. Pokémon Go is the obvious example. Still, toys themselves could become a central focus. An excellent article in Wired covered the many ways some of the largest toy companies from Hasbro to Disney have waltzed into playrooms with AR.

Hasbro’s latest AR creation is an Iron Man toy that deploys AR to help kids fight Thanos, Ironman’s nemesis.

Augmented reality will also hit the classroom as a way of creating a three-dimensional learning experience, not unlike the 3D world we already live in. The use of AR in the classroom will likely cause a learning revolt because it will forever shift classroom experiences away from reading and writing to focus on interactive and creative methods of learning. Indeed, the ever-decreasing cost of smartphones and other devices will only enable schools to get on board with AR applications as part of their pedagogy.

5 Augmented Reality Apps You Need to Try

The best way to understand AR is to experience for yourself. Because it remains largely smartphone based, there’s no reason not to get involved.

There are plenty of augmented reality apps out there. Even Snapchat filters count. But we’ve put together a list of apps that show off not only how it works but how insightful it can be:

Here are a few of the best augmented reality apps available in your app store:

SketchAR

SketchAR is a drawing tool using AR, machine learning, and other computing tools to help you learn to draw step-by-step. It’s like paint by numbers but for freehand drawing.

It works for inexperienced draws as well as professional artists because it’s an easy way to trace a perfectly drawn sketch onto another surface. There’s a library of options as well as the photo feature allowing you to choose a custom image or photo.

It even creates a time-lapse of the drawing process so that you can learn and share.

Pokemon GO

The future of Augmented Reality

Pokemon GO is the AR app to try, even if you don’t like Pokemon.

The app transforms the real world around you into a game by hiding Pokemon in locations across the globe. Even the park across the street is new because you’re on the hunt.

If you want to see just how AR can transform the way you experience a space, give this app a shot.

WallaMe

WallaMe is one of our favorite apps because it’s almost child-like in its design. The app allows you to hide personal messages in real places with augmented reality. For example, you can leave suggestions on a menu in a restaurant for friends to discover what your favorite meal was.

The messages aren’t public – only people you choose can see them. Still, the app changes the way both you and your friends experience the same places.

CARROT Weather

CARROT Weather is a weather app that added an AR mode in 2017. The app uses ARKit to bring the robot you interact with to life and almost game-like. You’ll watch and interact with the app to see the weather and corresponding animations.

It’s a charming way to find out it’s going to rain all weekend.

Add Some AR to Your Life

Augmented reality adds both information and fun to your everyday experiences. With a wide range of applications, it’s set to transform the way we work, play, learn, and even perform mundane tasks like checking the weather.

Do you have a favorite AR app? Share yours in the comments below.

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