What is augmented reality?
With technology like Google Glass forging the way, it’s a very exciting time for augmented reality (AR). The explosion of powerful, sensor-equipped mobile devices ensures the rollout of augmented reality devices to the mass market is just around the corner. The surest evidence of this is the increasing availability of SDKs (software development kits) allowing developers to create exciting, immersive AR experiences without any special knowledge of computer vision, sensor fusion, or any of the other specialised technologies behind modern AR engines.
Augmented reality technology refers to overlaying a live view of the real world with virtual content. It’s an interactive breakthrough made possible by our mobile devices, and it’s changing the technology landscape in a big way. For gaming applications in particular, the goal is to render 3D content into the live scene so that it appears much more realistic and authentic so players feel as if they are really taking part in the action.
A combination of tech is used to generate this super-immersive experience, including accelerometers and gyroscopes that work alongside cameras and other sensors to determine both your position or other objects. Head-mounted displays, as used in the Oculus Rift gaming device, turn virtual environments that would normally be on a flat screen into a 3D world that surrounds you, with detailed audio adding even more realism.
In the end, the fluid, responsive augmented reality experience boils down to the accuracy of about a dozen numbers describing and merging the real and virtual scene. Even with carefully optimised code, it takes hundreds of millions of calculations per second to compute these. If that seems like a lot of effort for a dozen numbers, just imagine what’s going on in the visual cortex of your own brain!