Paul Gerrard

The potential of augmented reality


At its core, augmented reality is an enhanced version of reality utilising overlay technology and a digital device. It may look and sound like science fiction on its face, but AR is very much in use today, across multiple industries.

Augmented reality uses overlays to create a different reality filtered through a lens. Virtual reality, by contrast, involves the complete disconnection from reality, as the user will be immersed in a completely alternate, synthetic environment through the use of technology like a headset. Mixed reality, as you might imagine, involves a mix of both VR and AR technology.

Augmented reality in the real world

We see augmented reality utilised in businesses all around the world. Take for example Thyssenkrupp, lift manufacturers whose products many of us ride each day. These lifts helped lead the industry in AR applications using Microsoft’s HoloLens. The AR tech enables tasks like lift maintenance to be observed by experts around the world in real time. Being able to see the exact piece of machinery and how it works through an overlay that shows how it should work is clearly a game changer.

But Thyssenkrupp wasn’t done there. It continued its work in AR by creating a step-by-step guide for stairlift engineers to use when customising accessibility lifts in people’s homes. Visualising the different aspects of a staircase allows the installation to fit the individual staircases directly without the need for costly and time-consuming renders.

Integration with existing tech 

Even more so than VR or MR, the tech needed for AR is already at our fingertips. Take for example IKEA Place, the mobile app that allows users to “bring it home before you buy it.” With this service, customers can select a piece of furniture or room decor and “place” it in the space virtually using their phone’s camera and gauge if the item works for the size, shape or colour of the space, in addition to reviewing other aesthetic concerns. IKEA, meanwhile, know that it’s offering customers better perspective on the viability of a purchase.

Augmented reality is being utilised more and more as it becomes integrated with a wider range of existing technology. Whether used through a mobile phone app or through the headset of a HoloLens, the sky is truly the limit with AR.