One of the new and emerging technology revolutions we see nowadays is the idea of augmented reality. You can think of it as taking the world of everyday perception, tweaking and augmenting it. The instruments that we are using today to implement and transform the world are now allowing us to overlay digital information on top of the physical world.

The augmenting of reality is part of what it means to be human. From the moment that people started to create architecture, to put objects in the world, to make art, to carve tools we have been augmenting reality. Finally, the digital revolution is catching up to what we’ve already been doing which is a perfectly natural emergence.

Augmented reality is additional information that is provided in a camera phone view or other digital technology. A simple example, if you take your camera phone and you look at a city view, take a picture you get the city. If you’re in Italy, you get a picture of Italy. What if the information was added to that picture?

What if you were looking for the nearest McDonald’s, an ATM, the nearest public restroom or an apartment that is for rent? This kind of information can be embedded so when you’re using your camera phone and looking at the normal picture of Italy suddenly on your screen appears where the nearest public restroom is located.

Or let’s say you’re hungry and standing on the corner of a busy intersection and there are multiple restaurants around you, but you don’t have a good way to make a decision. Now, thanks to new software available for mobile phones you can simply point your phone’s camera at buildings around you and restaurants are magically recognized, and a layer of information about the restaurant appears on your mobile phone’s screen.

Another example is shopping. You can point your camera at a product and see a layer of information about it such as prices of the same product at other stores in the area or on the internet.

There are apps already where you can look through the camera of the app and place virtual elements into real environments. With AR, you are mapping the real world with an overlaying agency, information, and gamification just to name a few.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Having this functionality on your smartphone only requires a few things. First, a smartphone with a camera on it to capture reality. Second, a connection to the internet for receiving the layer of information. Third, software on your phone to bring it all together. It also helps to have the GPS function enabled on your phone to help establish your location.

Augmented reality can also work with a camera attached to your computer. You can hold products in front of your computer’s camera and see a layer of information appear directly on your screen that will not only make reality come to life but make it a lot more fun as well.

Where is AR Headed?

Although the technology is still relatively, new developers are still working on applications to roll it out to the masses.

In 1998, Augmented Reality made its way into the entertainment as technologies advanced. The 1st & Ten-line computer system is broadcast by Sport vision, casting the first virtual yellow first-down marker during a live NFL game.

In 2013 AR hardware and software made the leap toward consumer audiences. Car manufacturers begin to use AR as the new age vehicle service manuals.

In 2014 Google announced a shipment of Google Glass devices for consumers, thus starting the trend of wearable AR.

In 2015, Augmented reality and Virtual reality investment reached $700 million dollars.

In 2016, Augmented reality and Virtual reality investment surpassed the $1 billion-dollar mark.

The AR market is opening up with developers increasing searching for ways to make your everyday world a lot more exciting. One way they are doing this is with games.

It is predicted that by the year 2020 there will be one billion users of AR that’s twice as many people today as buying a newspaper.

The New Mass Media

Augmented in many cases can be considered a form of mass media just like following:

  • Print (magazines, books, newspapers)
  • Recordings
  • Cinema
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Internet
  • Mobile phones

Each of these forms of mass media is different. We understand that even though cinema and television show the same kind of content they are different. We go to the movies, we pay every time we attend a movie but television is free, but the advertising pays for it.

In the same way, mobile is different from the Internet, and now Augmented Reality is the new form of mass media just like television and the internet were new forms of mass media.

What Will the Key Applications Be?

Early on the key applications will mostly be in entertainment. There are many examples where there are monsters, toys, children’s cakes, animation, and strip-tease girls offered by Victoria Secret’s catalogs just to name a few.

In the long run, we are going to see a lot more of AR being used on the information side. In Britain, already there are some museums that are introducing AR so that you can see more of the item that you are looking at. For example, you could see the historical information while looking at a building. You could travel to Berlin and see what the Berlin Wall looked like before it was dismantled.

As a result, more and more of the world will start to feel reenchanted. More of the world will be turned into gamified experiences. There will be more cognitive activity occurring at the interface between the individual self and the world.

Look forward to seeing the world that overlays graphics onto your physical surroundings to make them more functional in some way. Let’s hope that we all live to see the day where we will be able to run around in a forest at night playing survival horror games thanks to Augmented Reality.