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What is augmented reality? We explain briefly

Augmented reality is not the same as virtual reality. In a sense they are close relatives, as they have had a boom in recent years and have developed in parallel, but do not confuse them. A simple way to differentiate them is to keep in mind that virtual reality is a 3D simulation with photorealistic images that generally uses a set of lenses to work, while augmented reality (RA or AR for its acronym in English) combines digital elements with the space in which we move daily, and can be used in smartphones and other devices.

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The basic concept of augmented reality is that it adds either information or objects to the space we regularly perceive. We can understand it with an example. In the 1990s this technology found its first applications in the army, particularly in the area of ??navigation. The pilots could see the information of the altitude, the speed of the plane and its coordinates on a display that projected it on the place from which the data was to be extracted.

But if it doesn't sound like a plane, it might help you remember that scene of Terminator 2 in which the android cop is looking for John OConnor and enters a bar. When you run into people you can immediately see their name, age and other data projected in their sight. More or less as augmented reality works.

Terminator 2 scanner what is augmented reality(Image: Carolco Pictures)

Augmented reality: a recent concept

In 2009, MIT unveiled a project called SixthSense that aimed to implement an augmented reality prototype that worked with a projector, a camera, a small mirror and a smartphone. The set allows to interact with the projections using sensors in the hands using them as a cursor and even drawing on the projected surface. However, it turned out that developing a finished product that worked independently would be too expensive, so it would hardly reach the market, and despite the fact that the prototype was rudimentary, rather than a finished SixthSense product intended to give a concept, which to some extent has been retaken by the augmented reality of the most recent years.

In recent years, several companies such as Intel, Microsoft and even Google have developed smart lenses, which basically means that they are able to perform some smartphone functions by adding a good dose of augmented reality. It was in 2013 when Google announced its Google Glasses, which worked independently of other devices. However, due to factors such as its high price or its very narrow range of options, they were taken off the market after just two years of having seen the light. On the other hand, in 2017 Google returned to market a version of its augmented reality lenses exclusively for companies of different branches, this time with much more specialized functions.

Smart Glasses: a new bet

The lenses offered by this technology are one of the most recent bets of companies interested in the development of augmented reality. For example, earlier this year we learned that a company called North (supported by Amazon) began marketing Focal Smart Glasses, virtual reality lenses that promise four main functions: read text messages without having to look at your smartphone's screen , check information about the weather and time, check information about the weather and time, check some navigation data and even ask for an Uber from the lens interface. These lenses work with a small laser projector that targets the user's scan and shows words and numbers mainly. Its initial price was 600 dollars, and many believe that because their functions are very limited and that the elaboration process is delayed (as they are customized to fit the face of each face), it may not be worth it. Market this device on a large scale. It may serve very specific tasks in sectors such as industry, but it may not, for example, replace everything that a common smartphone offers, even a low-end one.

Focals by North Qu is augmented reality(Image: North)

Intel had also announced its own smart lens project, which also worked with a laser projector. The company had even planned to offer a few prototypes to developers interested in creating software for the interface. However, a few months after Intel started, I decided to cancel it, apparently because he did not find a way to market the product on a large scale, in addition to the company was resolving other conflicts such as the rumor that Apple wanted to replace its processors on its devices.

Apple, by the way, also has its own plans with augmented reality. For a few years he has been working on prototypes of smart lenses, and one of his spokesmen anticipates that by the end of 2019 they will already be manufactured on a large scale. However, there are rumors that the project has already been canceled by Apple.

What to expect from RA now?

It is currently more common to interact with augmented reality environments through smartphones, tablets, PCs and other devices. And there are multiple ways to do it, from video games to some mobile applications. One of the most popular examples is found in the game Pokmon Go, which allows you to search and capture Pokmons in your everyday environment with the use of RA.

logo minecraft earth qu is augmented realityVideo games such as Pokmon Go or Minecraft Earth use augmented reality through mobile devices. (Image: Minecraft)

Star Walk is another application that gives an interesting use to this technology, because pointing the camera towards the sky at night you can see the names of stars and constellations in real time. Another app called Layer uses the GPS and camera of your device to show you information about the establishments near your location.

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