Augmented Reality has taken a leap in applications over the last few years, growing its footprint across industries. The technology came to light during the 1990s with the word “augmented” derived from “augment”, which means to add something. Augmented reality, or AR, has been working towards just that – adding graphics, sounds and touch feedback into our real world. While virtual reality requires us to inhabit an entirely new virtual world, AR simply superimposes virtual objects on our existing real world adding a virtual twist.
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While e-commerce is leveraging AR technology in a large way, gaming continues to take the fair share of the pie. A multitude of collaborative industries is, hence, locking onto this opportunity. Take for instance makers of sensors and cameras.
Sensors and cameras are located on the outside of AR devices. While sensors gather real world interactions of users and integrate them with the virtual world, cameras collect data of the surrounding area. Take the instance of Microsoft Hololens, this AR device comprises depth sensing cameras that work in tandem with two “environment understanding cameras”. The depth sensing uses an RGB camera to receive a color image of a scene. The multiple elements identified in the color image is applied to a machine learning model, which assigns the elements with depth, giving it a 3D effect. This technology is best described in Microsoft’s granted patent US9626766. Similarly, depth sensing using an infrared camera is detailed in Microsoft’s patent US9380224.
Projectors are the next important component of an AR device. They project the processed content from the camera onto a surface in front of the user. The surface can be a wall or the screen of a smart device, such as a smartphone or a tablet. Essentially, the projector can convert any surface into an interactive world.
While cameras and processors make up for the input and output of content, it is processors that work incessantly in the background, powering AR technology. AR devices require components, including CPUs, GPUs, memory modules, Wi-Fi chips and GPS chips. In a nutshell, these processors comprise of:
- Accelerometer – To measure the speed of a user’s head movement.
- Gyroscope – To measure the tilt and orientation of a user’s head.
- Magnetometer – To figure out the direction at which a user’s head is pointing to.
Ingress and Pokémon Go have been two globally popular games that have leveraged AR technology. Ingress was released for Android devices in November 2012 and was later made iOS compatible in July 2014. The game stood first in its category in Android Players’ Choice Awards, 2013. In 2014, Ingress won the 18th Japan Media Arts Festival Grand Prize in Entertainment Division. It was followed by Pokémon Go in July 2016, which won multiple awards across the world. In August 2015, Niantic announced that it was being spun off as an independent company from Google. Google at the time of this spin-off announced that Niantic was ready to accelerate their growth by becoming an independent company, which would help the company to focus more on the entertainment space.
Niantic has been a giant in AR technology for gaming, owning quite an impressive portfolio. One of its patent US8968099, discloses an interesting method of transporting virtual objects through a virtual world associated with a parallel reality game. It accesses a data source storing or providing data associated with the location of a real world carrier, and modifies game data associated with parallel reality to transport virtual objects through the virtual world.
Niantic also owns an interesting patent US9226106 to manage multiplayer environments. This particular patent discloses a method of filtering communications received from multiple players within a location-based game. Accordingly, filtered communications data for each player is adjusted based on a few constraints associated with each respective player. If a first player and a second player are communicating with each other, and if the second player moves outside the area of the first player, a signal may attempt to filter further communications. However, constraints can allow the communication to take place.
Another popular AR game that has received significant attention is Night Terrors, which is an immersive, binaural, augmented reality survival horror game developed by Novum Analytics for mobile devices. This game only leverages a mobile device’s LED light. The game controls the device’s LED and manipulates lighting conditions to create a gothic scene.
Game developer Bryan Mitchell said that they are working to incorporate real-time feedback to enhance the haptic feedback. For instance, if a jump scare merely annoys a user and does create an adrenalin rush, then the game is expected to process that feedback and try a different tactic to elicit a gothic feel. The game is expected to measure a player’s heart rate using a wearable device, the movement of players’ hands on the mobile device, and the number of audible starts sounded by the player by leveraging the mobile device’s microphones. The company may also look to measure, recognize, and respond to speech and facial expressions to provide a more enhanced gaming experience.
There has been a hype that the next iPhone will include hardware-level Augmented Reality. Google’s Tango platform and Lenovo Phab2 mobile smartphone have already shown how such a system would work. Asus Zenphone smartphone comes with Google’s Tango technology. Apple packed its iPhone X with AR features.
These developments are sure to change the course of smartphone technology, propelling it to weave its future generations with the AR web.
(Featured image is for representational purpose alone. Image has been sourced from https://www.flickr.com/photos/turkletom/4325703868/)