Posted by Alejandra Rojas
Blog post representative mage

Augmented Reality (AR) explained in 5 minutes

What is AR exactly? You have probably heard of it, but could you explain it in your own words? In 5 minutes you’ll be able to.


Augmented Reality is having digital information (3D model, text, video, etc) overlaid in your vision of the real world. You can see it through your tablet or phone’s camera. So simply said, AR is something that adds things to your reality. It integrates new elements to your surroundings, giving you the ability to see them through these devices. Did you think about Virtual Reality (VR)? It’s not the same, since AR is adding something new, while VR takes you to a completely different setting, like if you were teleporting. Both technologies make you see things that are not ‘real’, but with AR you just add things to what you are seeing normally. Maybe you already used AR and you didn’t know… the most mainstream form of AR is the one we call ‘filters’ on Snapchat or on Instagram. Being able to change our looks or place objects in the background is possible thanks to Augmented Reality technology.


So… How does AR work?

For these types of filters, the apps use face tracker technology to identify your face and trigger the AR layer. However, Apps are not the only way to find AR. You can also see the AR content directly in the browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc). This is called WebAR and it works without any special App. With WebAR, you can start the experience by pointing your camera at a QR code, or by just clicking on a link. This link will take you to your browser where the camera will be enabled so you can enjoy the AR content. Once the camera is enabled there are two ways in which the content can be shown. First one is anchoring the AR content on an image or an object, so when the camera is pointed at this anchor the AR content will appear on it. Second option is to place the content in the user’s surroundings using markerless AR. This way the content can be shown as floating in space or placed in relation to the nearest surface if it is done using SLAM (Simultaneous Localization And Mapping) technology. When AR content is displayed using markerless tracking the content can also be triggered using GPS location, such as in the iconic ‘Pokemon Go’ game.

Is AR completely new? Not really.

It started 120 years ago as a science fiction concept, but it became reality in the 90’s and it has been evolving ever since. Nowadays, the developments in other technologies like internet speed, mobile processing power, device availability, and camera access in the browser are helping AR to gain mass adaptation and to create amazing things. Before, it was not possible to exploit all the capabilities that people could imagine for AR and costs for designing it were really high, but now things have become easier. It’s available in our smartphones, it’s time to make the most out of it. But, how can it be valuable? For fun or for business purposes, AR has become a new outstanding way to create experiences that engage people. Everybody’s attention is on the screen of our smartphones, but do we really feel involved or excited about the content we’re looking at? Maybe not, but AR is here to connect our physical and digital presence. How to try on new make up without going to the store physically? How to see which new piece of furniture fits better in your new apartment? How to have your favorite artist performing in your living room? The answer to all is AR. Creativity is the only limit.


AR in everyday life.

Indeed, there are many uses for AR, whether for fun or for business, it is helping a lot of people to make life easier. Marketers are using it to catch customer’s attention in a more effective way. Teachers combine AR with their courses to involve students in topics such as biology, for instance by showing a 3D model of a cell and its structure. Architects can render and show their work to clients in a more meaningful way. Industrial engineers can forget about paper manuals and use AR as a tool to train their employees when operating complex tasks or just to help them during the assembly. Museums in historical sites can show more information to make the experience more interactive. AR is an amazing tool to engage consumers, students, museum visitors, pretty much everyone.


Who can use AR? Everybody! Who can create AR? Everybody! Yes, even if you don’t know how to code. There are many ways of creating it, either from scratch or using pre-existing 3D models (some of them are even for free) to drag and drop in one of the platforms for creating AR. You can also outsource it by finding an agency or AR developer. Many things have happened since the 90’s, now we have the opportunity to explore all the possibilities that AR can bring.

Now that you know about AR, add it to your creative toolbox. At Hololink we help you to create interactive AR experiences with no need to know how to code and no need to develop apps.

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