Catching little monsters in the real world via smartphone - the most famous example of augmented reality is probably the app "Pokémon Go". The game has been downloaded over a billion times. The idea behind it couldn't be simpler: the Pokémon simply blend into the existing environment on the screen, which the device captures with its camera.
The Pokémon Go example shows: Augmented Reality, or AR for short, has arrived in our smartphones and thus in our everyday lives. We explain what is behind the term and show where AR is used.
In technical jargon, Augmented Reality is also called “enriched reality”. Accordingly, digital elements are inserted into the real world - directly on a screen or in glasses. In other words, before the eyes of the viewer. The virtual information and our real environment only overlap. A warehouse worker, for example, can see through glasses which shelf the spare part he is looking for is located on. Or the mechanic receives useful information about the technical component he is supposed to repair.
For augmented reality in the classic sense, no complicated technology is required, only a monitor. The user can access the digital elements via a smartphone, a tablet or AR glasses. In principle, any newer device that has a camera can display augmented reality. This is because AR software uses camera image, microphone and other sensors to place digital objects in the real environment in real time.
The important thing is that augmented reality is not limited to visible, visual elements. It can also address other senses: Intelligent audio glasses are used in museums, for example. The glasses use sensors to recognize the wearer's location and play back the appropriate content.
What distinguishes Augmented from Virtual Reality
In contrast to Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality (VR) presents the user with a computer-created world. Until now, this has only been possible with the help of VR glasses. VR glasses allow the user to dive into a new, artificially created world that is immersive , i.e. deceptively real. For example, he can swim with whales in underwater worlds, explore a shipwreck or walk through his new house before it is built.
Between Augmented and Virtual Reality, Mixed Reality, translated "mixed reality", can be found.
To experience mixed reality, the user puts on MR glasses like the nreal or the Microsoft HoloLens. The latter was launched on the market in the second generation during the Mobile World Congress 2019. Using the camera in the glasses, an expert from any location in the world can be connected to the system on construction sites, for example. This enables him to work in real time with the user on site on a problem "in front of the glasses". By the way, the collective term for mixed, virtual and augmented reality is "XR".
Where is Augmented Reality used?
AR is not only widespread in industry and gaming, but also in other areas such as automotive: Navigation in newer cars often works via a so-called head-up display. These project the correct route directly onto the windshield and thus onto the road, without the driver having to change his line of vision.
Would you like to learn more about XR applications in industry and private life? Here we have compiled six ingenious application cases.
Data protection as a challenge
The use of AR applications gives privacy protection a whole new meaning. This is because most AR apps often require the exact location of the user and naturally capture the user's surroundings with the camera. Thus, the manufacturers of the apps receive very sensitive data, the protection of which should be guaranteed in both private and industrial settings.
For this reason, the wearing of Google Glass, which was introduced in 2012, has been banned in various US states such as Las Vegas. The data glasses may not be worn in hospitals, concerts and cinemas.
The virtual world permeates our everyday life
Since every newer smartphone is AR-compatible, more and more developers are incorporating augmented reality into their applications. Daniel Aslam, responsible for XR Business Development and Global Partnerships at Telekom, also sees great potential: "Thanks to better computing and network performance, mixed reality will permeate our everyday lives in the future. This will change the way we communicate with each other, how we work or how we consume. It will be exciting to see which application scenarios, technical solutions and manufacturers will become established. Deutsche Telekom is working closely with XR developers to generate new services of its own and, above all, to enrich existing services using mixed reality and thus deliver added value."