What is Augmented Reality and how does it work?

By Akilesh Manchikanti | 13th November, 2020 | 7 min Read

Augmented Reality has been around for a while. Back in 1968, Ivan Sutherland was the first person who created the first head mounted display.The term Augmented Reality was coined by Boeing researcher Tom Caudell in the year 1990.

The entire world is translating, breaking the communication barriers and creating new sensory awareness that makes seeing;hearing;tasting and touching brand new. Wearable devices and computers are becoming powerful and extending human capabilities.

This is called Augmented Reality. Read further to know about it.

What is the difference between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality(AR v/s VR)

This article mainly provides information about Augmented Reality but it’s worth understanding the difference between Augmented Reality(AR) and Virtual Reality(VR) .

In VR, you physically wear a special headset that completely blocks your view of the physical world and replaces it with a computer generated world.

In 1996, Hunter Hoffman and David Patterson developed the first Human Interface technology(HIT) lab. They have designed the first immersive VR world to help patients who suffer from wounds related to burning.

Hoffman explained how VR helps to alleviate pain by distracting them from the present world:

Pain requires conscious attention.The essence of VR is the illusion users have of going inside the computer generated environment. Being drawn into another world drains a lot of attentional resources, leaving less attention available to process the pain signals.

In AR, you still remain in the physical world and virtual objects or scenes enter your field of view by way of a pair of see-through digital glasses,a tablet or a wearable glasses.

You can still see and feel the real world with your senses, and AR digitally enhances it.

Watch this video to understand more about Augmented Reality(AR), Virtual Reality(VR) and Mixed reality(MR)

Augmented Reality in Today’s world

AR has really developed over the last few years. From attractive snapchat filters to interactive and immersive weather reports for fighter pilots in order for them to find their targets during the day or night, AR has proven as a powerful aid for various industries such as manufacturing and as well as to the general public.

Augmented Human

By Helen Papagiannis

Augmented Human Book

Augmented Human gives a great holistic overview of AR’s impact on different industries and cultures through stories, real examples and insights from AR experts.

This isn’t one of those technical augmented reality books, so we would recommend it as a resource for anyone involved in AR projects or interested in AR as an industry, not just developers and creators.

Examples of Augmented Reality

The potential of augmented reality is endless.Here are the best examples of Augmented Reality till date.

  1. Pokemon-Go:
  2. One of the most popular games in early 2016 is Pokemon go. Although the game had some negative impacts, the application of AR can be visualized.

    Pokemon Go allows you to catch your favourite pokemon by looking into your mobile phone -superimposing the pokemon into the real world.

    This game had an overwhelming success and probably this might be the reason you noticed teens roaming around your neighbourhood looking at their mobile phones.

  3. L’Oreal Makeup app:

    L’Oréal and Perfect Corp,have launched a global partnership to integrate L'oreal's makeup products into YouCam makeup augmented reality app.

    Similar to a snapchat filter, with the use of this app ,millions of beauty fans will be able to test L’oreal products to know how you would look with a certain shade or color,discover new products and buy them directly in the app or in the stores.

    example of Augmented Reality

    source: thehusstle.com

  4. US Army:

    Not all the applications of AR are for fun.

    The US army is testing Augmented Reality programs to be used in combat that would help soldiers distinguish between friend and foe and also improve the night vision.

    Watch this video to understand more about how US army is experimenting with AR:

We have listed a very few applications of AR. However, there are many more industries that are adopting augmented Reality in order to benefit from its capabilities.

Many small and medium sized companies are hesitant to adopt AR as it requires huge investment. Whereas bigger organizations like BMW have started using Augmented Reality to differ from their competitors.

Related Content:

  • Computer generated content: Content in the form of graphics, image or video that is generated by the software.
  • AR Core : an Augmented Reality tool developed by Google For developers.
  • AR Kit : an Augmented Reality tool developed by Apple for developers.
  • GPS: GLobal positioning system is used to track the position of any device.
  • Accelerometer: an instrument for measuring the acceleration of a moving or vibrating body.
  • Gyroscope:A gyroscope is a device used for measuring or maintaining orientation and angular velocity.

How does Augmented reality Work?

To show relevant information to the user AR uses computer vision, simultaneous Localization And Mapping(SLAM) and depth sensors(Sensors that are used to measure the distance to an object). This allows cameras to see, collect and process relevant content and show it to the users.

Computer vision is used to understand the world around the user. Once the environment is known, this allows to process digital content that is relevant to the user. Once the digital content is created , it needs to be displayed to the user in a realistic way and in such a manner that it is part of the real world.This is called rendering.

Augmented Reality can be divided into four 4 main phases:

  • An AR program is used to capture the environment using the camera of your smartphone or a tablet or a head mounted display.
  • Then it scans the environment to find out the locations or positions to overlay the extra information.
  • As soon as the point is identified the AR programs requests a solution to overlay the required content.
  • Once the content is ready, the new information is overlaid over the real world.

Now lets us break it down and understand with the help of an example:

example of Augmented Reality

source: techslang.com

For instance imagine that you are at a new place and using AR navigation to navigate around.

When you place your phone, computer vision is used to process the surroundings from the image which is captured by the camera.

Now the rendering module augments the original frame with digital content making sure it precisely overlaps your frame and displays the information. In the figure above the digital content such as distance to nearest transit or a restaurant is provided. For this it uses 3D position and orientation determined by computer vision to properly orient the information.

For each and every Augmented reality experience the logic needs to be defined before hand.This specifies the digital content to be displayed when something is recognized. In live AR systems upon recognizing the digital content will be displayed and this step has to be very fast. This is the most challenging task for wearable devices like glasses.


Hardware: Hardware components such as processors,camera,sensors and display are used for AR. Modern computing devices such as mobile phones and tablets are equipped with cameras and various sensors such as accelerometer, gyroscope etc.

EyeGlasses: AR displays can be rendered on devices such as eyeglasses. The eyeglasses are equipped with cameras that capture the environment and re display its augmented view on the eyeglasses


source: 9to5mac.com

HUD(Head-up Display):A head-up display or heads-up display,[1] also known as a HUD, is any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. HUD’s are usually used in high end cars such as BMW, Audi, Lexus and maymore to assist drivers. This data consists of warning signals, speed, and navigation which are displayed directly on the windshield in the driver’s line of sight.

heads up display showing directions, speed in a moving car

source: embitel.com

Types of Augmented Reality

The different types of AR are:

  • Marker based AR: This is also called image recognition or recognition based AR. This type of AR requires a marker or distinct image for the camera to process and display the required image. The distinct image or marker is usually a QR code or a custom logo. This is easy to implement and is inexpensive.

    Marker based Augmented Reality , Scan the logo to get the information

    In the above image a particular logo is scanned and you can find the 3D object on the screen

  • Markerless Augmented Reality: As the name suggests, there are no markers for a camera to scan and augment the information into physical space. This kind of AR is usually used in mobile phones and tablets. As smartphones and tablets have cameras in them , it scans the surrounding environment and displays the information of the surrounding area.

    For example if you are new to a place,markerless AR helps you discover the new place. Another example is an interior design app that lets you place the furniture in various arrangements.This method works by reading data from the mobile’s GPS, digital compass and accelerometer while predicting where the user is focusing.

    Markerless Augmented Reality which shows directions and time taken to reach next stop

    This is an example that is useful for traveler where the AR app shows the number of stops to the destination

    example of markerless Augmented Reality which is used to see the direction of furniture in a house

    source: catchar.com

    This is an example showing how the furniture( chair ) can be placed at your place.

  • Projector based AR: Projection based AR is used to simplify complex tasks that are a part of companies manufacturing, assembly, sequencing operations. Projection-based AR is appealing and interactive where light is projected onto a surface and the interaction is done by touching the projected surface with hand.

    For example,in a factory instead of asking employees to do a job following a step by step process to develop a product using a manual, lights that indicate each step of product development are used instead.

    Checkout this video to know more about projector based AR


To Avail Our Free Resources