Augmented Reality: How Does It Work, Really?
By now, we’re all pretty familiar with virtual reality. We’ve seen the games and we’ve seen the “experiences.” It seems simple enough right? Virtual reality (VR) uses computer technology that immerses the user in a different world, separating them from actual reality.
But what about augmented reality? What is it? How does it work?
We’ve seen glimpses of the technology reach the mainstream, but we’ve yet to see it at its full potential.
For example, the Pokémon Go game showed us how digital content can be “placed” into our surroundings. A neat trick, certainly, but augmented reality (AR) is really so much more.
In its truest expression, AR technology — like that in DAQRI Smart Helmet — can actually interact with, adapt, and react to your surroundings.
AR vs. VR
Augmented reality is a visual computing medium, meaning the user is given contextual information about their environment without ever actually leaving that environment. The information is displayed before the user’s eyes, right where it’s needed. The user can remain engaged with their surroundings without being shut off from them completely.
How does it do this? Well, by utilizing a sophisticated suite of sensors, augmented reality technology can actually register field-of-view objects spatially and display information based on its own findings.
That sounds complicated. Let’s take a look at it…
What It Takes
One of the biggest mysteries surrounding AR is how the technology is actually able to make sense of your environment. It all starts, as we mentioned above, with having advanced sensors capable of detecting — and interpreting — everything in your field of view.
But before it can learn anything about the space around you, it first needs to find out exactly where you are.
Some AR devices utilize GPS technology from satellites to figure out where you are in space. Yes, this is the same GPS you might use to get from Point A to Point B in your car, but when it comes to AR, GPS gets much more specific — like, distance-between-you-and-your-coffee-cup specific.
But GPS can be tricky, especially if you’re working in an area with poor satellite reception. DAQRI found a solution with Visual Inertial Odometry(VIO). Instead of relying on information from satellites for localization, the VIO technology in the Smart Helmet uses a camera taking hundreds of pictures a second to piece your environment together and calculate your place in it.
Other sensors can go even further, working together to create a holistic analysis of the environment. These kinds of features help the user know more about the environment than their limited human senses would normally accommodate.
Just think, you could walk past a wall dozens of times without noticing a bit of emanating heat. That heat could be a symptom of a much greater issue brewing behind the surface, and with thermal sensing, you can catch it early.
With sophisticated sensor and display technology in place, the possibilities are basically endless.
Using software like DAQRI 4D Studio, developers can create a customized AR program suited to your specific needs, whether you want to map a factory floor or an entire offshore oil platform.
Further, by using software to establish points of reference that the hardware can read, AR devices can actually recognize specific objects and push information about those objects to the user. Without previous training, a worker could approach a pipe system, prompting his or her device to read a set of gauges. If the reading were out of a normal range, the worker would receive step-by-step instructions on how to resolve the problem. They could even order new parts on the spot.
Combined with IoT-connected devices, an entire building or facility can be a source of information for an AR user, creating a seamless and connected workplace filled with empowered workers capable of assimilating new skill sets in seconds.
AR technology will continue to advance, but even in its current iteration, AR has the potential to streamline the workplace, boosting efficiency while reducing error, and keeping workers safe on the job.
And if you think that’s cool, wait till you see what’s next.