Virtual reality is making headlines and coming to the fore
as far as gaming, viewing and entertainment purposes are concerned, thanks
mainly to Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook fame) and his desire to get as many
people using virtual reality as possible, but it is unwise to ignore virtual
reality’s slightly older* (arguably, see below) cousin, augmented reality.
Augmented reality has a number of uses already, and is sure to widen its base
even further over the next few years or even months. Here are some uses that
you may or may not have already heard about:
It was first used in 1990 in Boeing assembly plants, to guide workers through the complex and intricate webs of wiring needed to get a massive plane up in the air and then down again safely. The planes’ panels have fearsomely packed wires and buttons which would be all but impossible for a worker to memorise without hours and hours of training. Using augmented reality means that workers can confidently assemble complex pieces without worrying that they might make a mistake and endanger hundreds of lives.
Google Glass was probably the best know incarnation of augmented reality, although it did much more than that. Google Glass was essentially a head-mounted, voice-activated ‘smartphone’ that could also be controlled, to a limited extent, with the small touchpad placed on the wing of the glasses. With Google Glass, a tourist could explore a city without needing to constantly consult maps and guidebooks, or even hold their smartphone in their hand as they navigate using the device’s built-in GPS. Augmented reality was one of the big selling points of Google Glass, with the promise that real time information about places, events and just about everything else, was there, in front of the user’s eyes just by asking for it to be!
Medical uses of augmented reality are improving too, with surgeons in training being able to consult medical textbooks while operating, without losing time or needing to have pages turned (or even websites accessed for them!) Augmented reality can guide a doctor through a diagnosis procedure, making sure that no vital steps are left out and that all checks are properly made before a certain diseased is ruled in or out.
Retail is one area that has happily seized upon augmented reality. By getting workers to use augmented reality, training times can be slashed without impacting on efficiency or health and safety. Picking and packing workers can be guided, by augmented reality maps, to the precise products they need, in the most efficient order – and all without needing to have any understanding of the layout of the warehouse, never mind the detailed comprehension that used to be needed in former times.
These are just some of the practical uses of augmented reality – and we haven’t even touched on the ‘fun’ uses of AR as yet! Just a little imagination will help you to see that movies, websites, and gaming can all benefit immensely from this technology – as can education too!‘* Virtual reality was first imagined in the 70s and 80s, then proved too impractical, at the time, to put into commercial production. Augmented reality came along in the 90s, and made little headway until Nintendo seized on the idea in the late 00s/ early 10s. Then, in the mid-10s, virtual reality was made smaller and enabled for domestic use, with augmented reality gasping to stay in touch with VR advances.