Augmented Reality: The Basics

11/02/2016 | By Aleksander Bordvik

This post originally appeared on

What is Augmented Reality?

Most often we are synonymous with Virtual Reality, but there is another new kid on the block, called Augmented Reality or AR.

Whereas virtual reality immerses you in a ‘virtual’ world that exists only in the digital realm, augmented reality does the opposite, it takes the real world of the present projecting digital imagery and sound into it.

Augmented reality these days is much more sophisticated than before, there are interactive and spatially aware implementation of the concept where digital objects such as 3D models or video are outlined onto our physical view of reality as if they were really there.

How Does Augmented Reality (AR) Work?

The type of augmented reality one is most likely to encounter adopt a range of sensors (including a camera), certain computer components and a display device, much like a projector to create the illusion of virtual objects in the real world.

With the boom in smartphone popularity, which have all the necessary components, they have been the platform for most commercial augmented reality applications.

Basically, the device looks for a particular target. This can be anything, but usually, it’s just a 2D image printed on paper like a movie or music poster. Then through the camera, the augmented reality application recognizes the target and processes the image and augments it with pictures and sound. For example, you may see the poster spring to life and play a trailer for the film.

By using smart algorithms and other sensors the device can keep the augmented elements coordinate with the image of the real world.

Using a smartphone or tablet computer as a sort of “magic window” into the augmented world is one of the many ways we can use to relay this digital info to our eyes.

Applications of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality has a wide range of industrial applications, this, of course, is attributed to the rise of consumer smart devices and overall advanced computing technology developments. Augmented Reality now has lots of potential in the mainstream consumer space as well.

The two areas having the most of commercial development or influence in augmented reality are education and gaming.

In Gaming, two major mainstream video game consoles, X-box and PlayStation, have embraced and formulated augmented reality capabilities for their last two console generations.

Augmented reality mobile games are not so rare, they can be found on smartphones, tablets and handheld consoles like PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS.

The potential of augmented reality (AR) in education is being implemented in fields such as medicine where students can benefit from live 3D models. It employs the use of existing learning material (such as cardboards) as targets for augmented reality to project an in-depth image.

In medical practice augmented reality can project information directly onto the body of a patient. For example, the Veinviewer system creates the impression of a transparent skin by projecting real-time images of infrared vein scans directly onto the patient’s skin.

Military use of AR are also quite clear, soldiers wearing heads-up displays (HUDs) can see information tagged onto real world objects. Orders, radar information or any other relevant sensor data from devices on the network can be relayed. Enemy and friendly positions are significant in strategy. Augmented reality without a doubt has a bright future in military applications.

Mobile smartphones, especially the Apple brand, iPhone use augmented reality apps that allow you to observe these CGIs (computer generated images) superimposed over real world images.

In marketing and advertising augmented reality has been used as a tool for enhancing certain aspects of a product to make it more attractive and appealing to the customer which will certainly boost sales.


Augmented reality is likely to wiggle its way into our day to day lives frequently in the 21st Century much like Virtual Reality did in the late 20th Century, influencing various industries. Once wearable and integrating computers become more common it won’t be queer seeing people interacting with and reacting to things that seemingly aren’t there from your perspective.

Thanks to advancement in technologies such as augmented reality the way we interact with computing devices and think about the chasm between analogue/physical and digital/virtual reality is likely to change fundamentally.