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The term Augmented Reality was coined in the USA at the start of the century. Established at the same time in Japan was Mixed Reality – a term that fittingly describes the idea behind Augmented Reality: reality that is combined with virtuality. Here a virtual camera forms the medium and a really existent object provides the starting point for the Augmented Reality. The camera’s position needs to be pinpointed very precisely to ensure the three-dimensional depictions later appearing are in the right place.
The functionality is quick and easy to describe: by registering a real object the camera ascertains its current position while the software operating in the background then generates a virtual depiction of Augmented Reality in the form of other objects not existing in reality. Using Augmented Reality it would be possible to conjure up an idyllic landscape on a whitewashed wall: from virtual grass and virtual flowers through to virtual animals. For the user an as realistic as possible experience is to be created, at all times and everywhere, with all conceivable content.
The greatest challenge in the development of Augmented Reality has so far been to exactly pinpoint the camera’s location. The locational data must not only be transferred in real time and thus be constantly updated, even the minutest deviations in the determination of the exact coordinates of the camera can lead to abstruse, entirely unrealistic changes in the virtual environment. Everything is possible from rather inconspicuous distortions of perspective through to total displacement in the three-dimensional space.
Initial efforts are already being made to help solve this first problem: markers, often in the form of Q codes, patterns or images, are to replace the real objects and make positioning unnecessary. This means the spatial pinpointing of the camera is achieved by its perspective in relation to the marker. A disadvantage of this technology is that a marker in the real world is by nature movable. Markers only work if they can maintain a permanent position.
In addition to the efforts to create added value for customers with the help of Augmented Reality, over the past few years Augmented Reality has crystallised as an entertainment medium with broad applicability. There are elements of Augmented Reality on our television screens at home where Augmented Reality-based animation runs unnoticed, in video games and on consoles and in advertising that focuses as we know on visual communication and Augmented Reality is creeping into our daily lives without us even realising. Even the more recent versions of smartphones have applications built in that use Augmented Reality: in addition to games, navigation and information services, in particular, are favourite users of the new technology. Alongside its use in mobile devices Augmented Reality developed thus far is now also moving into other areas. The simulative nature of this technology is extremely attractive for military exercises as well as for educational purposes. In localisation more precise yet more costly methods of Augmented Reality are finding increasing application in medicine. Also enjoying particular popularity are the simulations that use Augmented Reality in architecture – meaning ideas and plans can be surveyed right on site and not in the office at the computer like they were in the past which means they can be recreated in a “more realistic” manner.
Even today the developments in the field of Augmented Reality are extremely interesting for many areas of our private lives as well as for the professional sphere. Although some problems need to be ironed out, Augmented Reality offers true added value not only for users but also for companies and manufacturers. The often high costs for the investment or provision of suitable technologies and platforms are again relativized in many cases by time and in others by cost savings.
- Master's thesis: Malte B. Blanken zum Thema Augmented Reality
- Book: Marcus Tönnis: Augmented Reality: Einblicke in die Erweiterte Realität
- Book: Mehler-Bicher, Anett et al.: Augmented Reality: Theorie und Praxis