Augmented reality: The story so far

Everything you need to know about AR, what it is, and what it does...
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Augmented reality: The story so far

Getting to grips with augmented reality

Just as virtual reality (VR) waded into the mobile tech world a few years ago and changed everything forever, you can expect the same from augmented reality. All your favourite technology conglomerates are currently putting a lot of resource into becoming the name in AR, and all with a slightly different approach.

If this is the first time you’ve heard of AR, this is what you need to know…

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality, or AR for short, is different to the more commonly known virtual reality, because it layers projections on top of real world objects – creating the illusion that whatever you’re looking at is in the room with you.

It’s generally viewed through a smartphone or tablet’s camera lens, or a mixed reality headset, and in terms of timescale, we’d put our money on 2018 being the year of AR.

Who’s working on AR?

You’ll not be surprised to learn that it’s the usual suspects clambering to be the first to perfect this new technology. Apple is working on its ARKit, Microsoft has its super-expensive Hololens headset, while Google has already started embedding its Tango tech into smartphones.

In 2013, Sony released the Xperia Z1, featuring a camera app called AR effect. It let you introduce moving characters to your photos, like dinosaurs and woodland creatures, which you could interact with by tapping on them. Here’s a photo we took at the time:

Although impressive in its day, the mobile tech world moves quickly, and we should expect a much more grown up version of this app from the names above. In comparison, this is what the Apples, Microsofts and Googles out there are whipping up...

Apple ARKit

At time of writing, Apple has just started rolling its ARKit to developers, and it looks like they’re having a lot of fun. Check out this user customising and test-driving a virtual Tesla Model 3, as if it were a remote-controlled car.

Microsoft Hololens

Hololens is a Top Gun-style visor that goes over your face, letting you enjoy the joys of AR hands-free. It’s a bit goofy-looking at the moment, but it’ll quickly slim down over time.

This will be big news for the gamers, professionals, and hobbyists out there, and it's a level up from the likes of HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, which put you entirely inside the virtual world, instead of bringing it into yours.

Tango

The formerly named ‘Project Tango’ from Google’s is ready to go right now. You’ll find it on the ASUS Zenfone AR, which we reviewed recently, and it’ll no doubt be coming to lots of other mainstream smartphone models next year. This is what you can expect:

What to you think about AR? Is it the next big thing? Drop us a comment below to start the conversation.

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