While virtual reality can be described as placing you in a virtual world that’s disconnected from reality, augmented reality (AR), sits further along the scale. It presents an overlay on the real world: projecting digital images to augment an actual view. This is largely carried out with the help of smartphones, tablets, or laptops, but the future – as imagined in this infographic by Vexels – could include AR technology embedded in glasses, contact lenses or vehicle windshields.
Looking back at its evolution, actor Robert Downey Jr was the cover star for the technology’s first foray into print media. More recently, Nintendo’s Pokémon Go dominated the AR headlines. However, beyond entertainment, there are some compelling augmented reality use cases for business.
Virtual reality is about immersion, whereas AR is about information. This offers a great opportunity to enhance instructional processes, for example. When Boeing factory employees were asked to assemble a mock aeroplane wing, those following AR-animated instructions on tablets were 90% more accurate and 30% faster than colleagues using PDFs.
In fact, any process that could be enhanced by a visual overlay of information stands to benefit: imagine customers simulating a new kitchen design over their existing layout; or trying on clothes in a virtual dressing room; or watching images in a medical textbook come to life in 3D to create a more accurate experience for students. All of these are existing examples of AR in action. With a projected 200 million users by 2018, it’s not unrealistic to envisage augmented reality becoming part of the fabric of everyday digital experience.