Augmented Reality: What are they talking about?

“What is Augmented Reality?” I hear all around me. Admittedly, it’s a funny name that lends itself to some entertaining explanations which have nothing to do with the technology. I found the best definition so far on How Stuff, which defines what it will do, as it’s really still in the making.

“Video games have been entertaining us for nearly 30 years, ever since Pong was introduced to arcades in the early 1970s. Computer graphics have become much more sophisticated since then, and soon, game graphics will seem all too real. In the next decade, researchers plan to pull graphics out of your television screen or computer display and integrate them into real-world environments. This new technology, called augmented reality, will further blur the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.

The basic idea of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio and other sense enhancements over a real-world environment in real-time. Sounds pretty simple. Besides, haven’t television networks been doing that with graphics for decades? Well, sure — but all television networks do is display a static graphic that does not adjust with camera movement. Augmented reality is far more advanced than any technology you’ve seen in television broadcasts, although early versions of augmented reality are starting to appear in televised races and football games, such as Race/fx and the super-imposed first down line, both created by SporTVision.  These systems display graphics for only one point of view. Next-generation augmented-reality systems will display graphics for each viewer’s perspective.

“Augmented reality is still in an early stage of research and development at various universities and high-tech companies. Eventually, possibly by the end of this decade, we will see the first mass-marketed augmented-reality system, which one researcher calls “the Walkman of the 21st century.” What augmented reality attempts to do is not only superimpose graphics over a real environment in real-time, but also change those graphics to accommodate a user’s head- and eye- movements, so that the graphics always fit the perspective.”

There will be much more to come.