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What Is Augmented Reality (AR)? Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Welcome back wonderful readers! This is the fifth and final blog of my miniseries on emerging technologies. In this blog I’m gonna talk about AR. So, let’s begin without any wait!

With AR, it appears that my craziest dream of becoming a cyborg can finally come true. Are you aspiring to become the same? Why not? With AR, now we all can impeccably amalgamate our real world with digital rudiments crafting immersive experiences that can fascinate our minds.

How To Define AR And What Are The Examples Of AR?

AR presents digital information, objects, images, and media in the real world through smart phones, tablets, smart glasses, and headsets. These elements can appear as a flat graphical overlay or can behave as an ostensibly real 3D object. So, effectively AR superimposes digital data and images onto the physical world, thus allow simulated objects to be overlaid in real-world environments in real time. With AR we can see the real-world environment right in front of us with digital augmentation superimposed on it. Some of the examples are living in our dream home, pet dogs chasing balls in the park, and college students playing soccer.

You might be wondering that AR seems to be a very fresh concept but, this is not the case. Can you, even, imagine that the American Computer Scientist Ivan Sutherland created first AR head-mounted display system in 1960? So, it’s like more than 60 years since that head-mounted display system was created. Of course, AR wasn’t as advanced as it is today but, throughout the decades its evolution has been impressive!

In present-day, AR has become one of the most sensational and biggest emerging technologies in the digital marketplace. The promise of AR is to deliver real word but, does it sound so easy? AR is already part of our daily lives with snapchat app filters, games like Pokémon Go, augmented shopping, and the list go on.

For instance, let’s analyze the game Pokémon Go which was launched in the year 2016. In Pokémon Go, the players attempt to capture exotic monsters/fictional creatures called the Pokémon. The Pokémon are located on a real world map, and when the player gets to the location, he/she uses smartphone camera to see Pokémon in the real world through the phone screen, and catches them. Interesting right? I have given the example of Pokémon Go here because this was the first game to bring AR component to the grassroots. However, this was not the first video game having the AR component but, actually it was the first to get AR component to grassroots.

Real Life Applications Of AR

1). AR In Gaming

AR enhances gaming experience as the dynamics of gaming have moved from virtual domains to include real life experiences as well. So, what are the reasons for indulging in the AR based games? Well, in my opinion, the vital feeling of tranquility and escapism. Some of the examples of AR driven games are Neyon Clash, Zombie Night Terrors, NightenFell, Army of Robots, and Jurassic World.

AR is swiftly transforming gaming businesses and these businesses are using AR to create innovative experiences and products for their customers thereby creating new revenue streams and unlocking a whole new world of possibilities as well.

2). AR In Retail Business

With AR in retail business, you can have, altogether, an enhanced shopping experience. Just visualize, you’re craving for new sneakers for your next best look. But, feeling lazy and don’t wanna go physically to a store and try new sneakers. No worries, many retail brands have AR powered applications to satiate your craving for sneakers. For example, you can visit Gucci’s iOS app, and you’ll literally try sneakers virtually through the app. Now see the amazing benefits which Gucci reaped using AR powered app. The AR powered app helped Gucci during the Covid-19 and it got a boost in its sales during the lockdowns. Gucci didn’t just introduce the app but, went the extra mile by collaborating with snapchat to offer a virtual trying-on experience.

Now let me tell you about the magic of Timberland’s “magic mirror”. Timberland opted for an AR powered magic mirror. This mirror virtually dresses customers in their chosen attires. You can seriously see yourself how you look like in particular outfits in this virtual fitting room and of course without the need to take your clothes off. See how pleasurable and stress-free the concept is. Timberland first brought virtual fitting rooms to Galería Mokotow located in Warsaw, Poland. This concept reaped incredible results for Timberland and with the application of AR; Timberland set an absolutely new level of branding and marketing.

All in all, AR is persistently providing opportunities to retail businesses for showcasing their products and enriching the customers’ experience. AR is a great tool for retail businesses for growing their revenues and also creating new streams of revenue.

3). AR For Surgeries Of Living Patients

Let’s see how AR can be used for surgeries. In 2020, John Hopkins’ neurosurgeons performed two AR based surgeries (first for spinal fusion to fuse three vertebrae in order to relieve debilitating back pain and second one for removing cancerous tumor) of living patients. Yes this happened; I’m not talking about some science fiction movie or a gimmick. The neurosurgeons used AR technology consisted of headset with a see-through eye display. This AR technology provided neurosurgeons with x-ray vision to pinpoint human organs thereby eliminating the need to look into multiple monitors. The surgeries turned out to be more patients centric and a complete success. Moreover, with the help of AR, the surgeries were less invasive and consumed less time. This demonstrates the power and potential of AR in revolutionizing surgical procedures and overall healthcare. AR is already on the ground helping doctors in many ways like seeing at a glance a patient’s test results, patient’s data at the bedside, and all this rapidly without the need to login into a computer or checking paper notes.

Healthcare sector which is gonna be the area most likely to be disrupted by AR over the impending years. For example, physicians would be able to use AR body mapping to see medical stats directly on a patient. Similarly AR can be used to educate and train medical students about human body’s anatomy by integrating curriculum with AR technology. At the end of the day seeing is believing, right? So for medical students, seeing/experiencing things in reality would lead to better understanding and hold of things.  

Other Applications Of AR

The above list of applications of AR is not exhaustive and there are various other areas where AR is getting applied and it has overwhelming potential to transform the way we do things currently. Some examples of these areas are tourism, military, education, manufacturing, advertisement, engineering etc. In a nutshell, from shaping new customer experiences to rapid product development, and improving safety, there are many compelling uses of AR.

What Are The Potential Challenges With The Expansion Of AR?

Can you guess the challenges that lie ahead with the growth of AR? The legal experts believe that the growth of AR could raise privacy and data concerns. Even if it’s regulated, it takes time for laws and regulations to catch up with new technology and any gaps & timing differences could result in potential abuses. So, the question is are the people, businesses and society ready for it?

What Is Virtual Reality (VR)?

VR is not my topic in this blog. I’ll talk about VR in some other blog but, since many people think that both AR and VR are same and often intermingle these two terms. So, I thought it’s a good idea to at least share the concept of VR here so that my brilliant readers can clearly distinguish between these two technologies. VR submerges users in a completely digital environment through a headset, surrounding display, sensors, or gloves. This environment can be either computer-generated or filmed in 360 degree video.

How VR Is Different From AR?

So, VR takes the same constituents of AR to a wholly different level by creating a fully computer-generated simulation of an alternate world.

For more clarity I have mentioned differences between AR and VR below:


VR uses fully virtual setting.


AR uses real world setting.


VR is fully computer-generated simulation. Here the users are controlled by the machine.


In AR, users have control over their presence in this tangible world.


VR is accessible through headset.


AR can be accessed using smartphone.


VR is fictional in nature.


AR augments real and virtual worlds.

Final Thoughts

It’s time to copiously explore AR technology as it is ripening. It’s been more than sixty years since the invention of AR and throughout these years the hardware and software has advanced, content has become more sophisticated, internet speed has been enhanced manifold, and headsets have become innovative & cheaper. So, now this is a decisive juncture for us to embrace AR. It seems everything is in place for AR to amend the ways in which every one of us operates.

As per the estimates of PricewaterhouseCoopers, together AR and VR have the potential to add $1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030. With its immense potential, AR can benefit the people, businesses, societies, and economies in sizable ways. Time to get started is now!


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