AUGMENTED REALITY BETWEEN INNOVATION AND INTERACTION

Augmented reality (AR) is the technology that adds virtual elements to reality, giving the users the opportunity to see a real object and to interact with it, relying on a better understanding of what is happening around them.

The basic principle of operation of augmented reality is the overlay. To better explain this concept we can give an example: the camera detects the object in the scene, the system recognises it and activates a new level of communication that overlaps and perfectly integrates into reality, thus enhancing the amount of detail data in relation to that object.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VR AND AR

Augmented reality should not be confused with virtual reality, which consists in the construction and representation of an entirely artificial world made of virtual objects. On the contrary, augmented reality consists in a mix of real and virtual objects and can be enjoyed through various devices such as smartphones, tablets and smartglasses like HoloLens.

The innovative technology of augmented reality, therefore, adds additional information generated by a computer to the normal reality perceived through our senses. This information may consist of videos, 3D animations, audio and multimedia files. Small VR headsets like immersive helmets or common smartphone cameras allow the user to enjoy many kinds of contents.

APPLICATION SCENARIOS FOR AUGMENTED REALITY

Over the years, thanks to the rapid evolution of both software and hardware, the power of digital devices has increased considerably. This has allowed an evolution of augmented-reality systems that today are used in numerous fields and provide multiple solutions, both in the workplace and in the entertainment field. Augmented reality, in fact, makes it possible to learn while enjoying, thanks to its emotional and engaging operation.

Thanks to its versatility, in fact, AR can be used both in applications intended for all users, and in precision applications designed for specific professional sectors. Below some application scenarios:

  • Military field: in the military field, augmented reality applications mostly concern simulations of missions, for example through the projection of virtual targets in the real environment or through the superimposition on real objects of information related to the environment and to possible dangers. In this context, the use of AR allows to eliminate the danger of accidents and to reduce the costs of training;
  • Medical and rehabilitative field: it is one of the fields in which much of the progress has been made, since the use of AR allows very innovative practices. For example, with augmented reality it is possible to visualise three-dimensional models of organs and pathological alterations directly on the patient's body. These are especially useful when performing surgery. Recently, rehabilitation studies have been carried out with the use of immersive augmented reality, through the superimposition on the real space of virtual reference points that guide patients with limited mobility. In these cases, the most important feature of these applications is to define a protected space in order to explore new behaviours and new simulations, overcoming fears and recovering lost capabilities. Still in the medical field, augmented reality allows students to experiment with a surgical procedure without subjecting a real patient to risks. Moreover, thanks to these new techniques, thousands of surgeons can be trained simultaneously and learn the procedures to follow, without having to limit themselves solely to observing;
  • Business and industrial field: in this field, AR applications have allowed to limit the maintenance and control costs of large enterprises. In fact, unlike before, when this kind of work was carried out by highly-specialised workers, today, thanks to augmented reality, even unskilled workers can carry out maintenance work on large machinery, guided by the information supplied to them by augmented reality;
  • Training and learning field: the training field is very vast, as it ranges from sports training to industrial and aeronautical training. Augmented reality allows recreating contexts that are difficult to achieve in reality and to guide users in specific tasks. In the learning field we can distinguish two areas in which AR is used for the purpose of learning: in schools, as a tool for teaching different subjects such as mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics, and in enterprises, with the aim of letting managers and employees acquire new skills. The use of augmented reality in training and learning has brought many advantages regarding the degree of concentration of students and the possibility of using more effective learning channels.

If you want to learn about the other areas of technological innovation in which PMF Research operates, we recommend you to take a look at our Journal.

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