Augmented reality is one of those quirky things that most consumers have already come across, but may not know the name of. The technology is clearly on the rise (with an estimated 1.73 billion people using it by 2024), so numerous businesses are finding ways to implement it in their workflow. If you’re looking at AR as one of the potential technologies to integrate into your business processes, it will surely help to learn how it works first.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to start using this technology and find an AR development company. You’ll find out how your business can benefit from augmented reality and what kind of spectacular things you can do with it.
What does Augmented Reality Mean?
Augmented reality (AR) is a term that describes technology that uses cameras and specialized AR software that analyzes what the camera sees.
AR is used to scan real-life surroundings, simultaneously analyze the scanned image and show users virtual content related to the real world in front of the camera. Looking at the screen, the user sees the real object and the information presented by AR software simultaneously, shown in 3D.
Take our immersive application FurnitARe as an example - users can focus their phone on a particular spot in a room and see different furniture pieces in 3D, rotating them and moving them around to preview how the real furniture will look in their home. That makes the selection process far easier, as there's much less risk involved.
What is needed to use AR?
The best thing about AR is that all it takes to use the technology is a smartphone. In fact, any device with a camera and the right AR software installed can utilize this technology. Besides smartphones, this includes tablets, laptops, but also smart glasses.
To summarize, to use AR, you will need a device with an up-to-date operating system (usually Android or iOS), a camera, and an appropriate AR app.
What are the key features of augmented reality?
Our FurnitARe example showed how you can use AR for 3D visualization. However, seeing how furniture will look in your room is just one use of AR, while the presentation and “showroom” potential of the tech extends to many more industries and uses, some of which would otherwise be impossible.
In this regard, AR can also improve your person-to-person sales process. For example, if your business relies on field agents, or you have a stand at a local fair, AR can help your agents show your customers how your products look and work even if they don't have them at hand.
Tracking and analyzing of surroundings
AR applications can be built to detect and track objects even better than humans could. Let’s say the app is pointed at a circuit board with hundreds of indicators and something in the associated machinery is not working properly. It might take several minutes for a person to find the faulty sensor while an app can perform an analysis in a matter of seconds and visualize the result.
AR is useful for giving information to employees right on the job site, enhancing safety, and serving in training purposes in any industry. With AR, workers will always have detailed safety procedures at their hand, helping them on the spot. They only need to scan a label or an object to get the information. The same goes for potential customers who can scan objects when browsing products at a store.
Apart from visualization, this kind of immersive tech also supports various UI features and menus. Thus, AR applications don’t are not limited to 3D models and text: as you look at your surroundings through the app, you can also use the interactive options and menus on the screen to change the digital content. This is very helpful when customizing products or settings.
AR apps can work in combination with other apps and tools on your smartphone, such as GPS location, compass, accelerometer. That will allow the AR app to show you unique content based on the location. Many video games use this feature, but it's beneficial in other areas, such as GPS car navigation.
How does Augmented Reality Work?
We have touched on how users experience AR, but what is the driving force behind the technology? Each AR application is unique, but most of them are powered at least in part by SDKs. In fact, it is only thanks to top-notch SDK tools from Apple, Google, and other providers that we have such a robust landscape of AR apps today.
Software Developer Kits (SDKs) are bundles of tools developers use to build apps. These tools significantly cut the complexity of development and the time needed to finish a project by providing pre-built pieces of functionality and plenty of helpful instruments. Going into development without one of the top AR SDKs at your side is not something we would recommend.
However, before writing any code, developers should decide which type of AR app they want to build - markerless, tracking (marker-based), or projection.
How does markerless augmented reality work?
Markerless AR apps don't need prior input of the environment (pre-programmed objects to scan) to show virtual content on the user's screen. This way, the 3D content can be displayed in any circumstances and in any location. However, some developers teach their app to recognize surfaces so the 3D content is placed in a more physically accurate way.
How does marker-based augmented reality work?
In contrast to markerless AR, tracking (or marker-based) augmented reality does need prior knowledge about the surroundings. Before a tracking app can display AR content, it needs to recognize an object in front of the camera first. Once it does, the AR app starts tracking it, showing you virtual content related to the object, hence the name "tracking."
How does projection AR work?
Unlike other AR types, projection augmented reality doesn't need a mobile device to show AR content. Instead, it is projected onto physical objects using specialized devices (depth cameras and projectors) and project mapping technology. This allows multiple people present in the same room to enjoy AR experiences without holding or wearing devices.
Platforms that Support AR
Currently, augmented reality is primarily used with mobile phones, but there is a growing trend towards another type (WebAR) that is supported on all devices with a camera. Let’s examine the two approaches and their differences.
How does augmented reality work on mobile?
Using AR on mobile phones is straightforward. First, all smartphones have cameras that allow you to scan your environment. Second, with Apple and Google SDKs and billions of mobile phone users, Android and iOS AR apps are widely available. Users only need to download and install an AR app or game to start using the technology.
How does web augmented reality work?
Web browsers are accessible on many more devices than mobile apps, and WebAR takes full advantage of this. To access the immersive experience, users just need to navigate to a website where the software is deployed and allow the application to use their camera. Once the user grants the app permissions it asks for, they can start enjoying the AR experience right from their browser tab.
What are the Main Uses of Augmented Reality?
Given the modern proliferation of smartphones, it is pretty apparent how AR can be implemented anywhere. For consumers, AR can be very helpful, but for the uninformed, it's primarily seen as an entertainment tool.
On the other hand, businesses can benefit the most from introducing AR into the workflow. Immersion can improve productivity, safety, and even help in matters of marketing and brand reputation.
To see some examples of how your particular industry and business can benefit from AR, feel free to check out our corresponding articles:
Two Ways to Build an AR App for Your Business
Building an augmented reality application is no small task, especially if this is your first time doing it. It will take weeks to months for your developers to learn the new technology, and much longer if you count new hires, 3D model design and integration, testing, and all of the other key stages of production.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone! In fact, you can choose any level of involvement if you partner with a development company and allow them to do the heavy lifting.
Program-Ace is one of the leading AR/VR/MR development companies operating today, and we have experience in creating such solutions in over a dozen different industries. We can build AR apps tailored to your company's needs, and make sure they add value to your business.
We will be happy to discuss your project in terms of pricing, duration, and all the other details of development. Just contact us, and take the first step towards making your immersive dream into a reality.