Augmented reality, sometimes called mixed reality, is a technology that combines real-world objects or environments with virtual elements generated by sensory input devices of sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. Unlike virtual reality, which uses a virtual world to completely replace the real world, AR runs in real time and interacts with objects in the environment, thereby superimposing virtual content with the real world.

Author: Peter

Ask strangers on the street what virtual reality (VR) is or how it works. Most people will have some existing opinions about this technology, and even equate it with the Holodeck in the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation. ) On the final VR implementation. However, asking him/her what augmented reality (AR) is, it may be difficult to get an answer. Maybe someone talks about the application of games in this technology, or the prototype of Google Glass that ended in failure in the early days.

Although the concept of AR has been around for a long time, it was not until Pokémon Go was born that it gained the attention of the world. Pokémon Go is a video game that combines smartphone images with real-world treasure hunts, allowing gamers to experience the real and virtual worlds at the same time. But what exactly is AR? As an emerging technology, can it have the potential to solve real-world problems in addition to games and entertainment? This article will explore multiple cross-industry augmented reality pilot programs and applications, including healthcare, law enforcement, education, logistics, construction, etc. As you will see, augmented reality is transforming into a cross-industry practical application platform. This technology can develop from today’s simple pilot project to an indispensable assistant in people’s daily lives.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality, sometimes called mixed reality, is a technology that combines real-world objects or environments with virtual elements generated by sensory input devices of sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. Unlike virtual reality, which uses a virtual world to completely replace the real world, AR runs in real time and interacts with objects in the environment, thereby superimposing virtual content with the real world.

While being popular in games, AR technology has fully demonstrated its ability to bring the interactive digital world into the real world of personal perception. In this world, numbers can show more information about real-world objects, even surpassing the objects that are actually visible in the real world. Imagine that when a doctor examines the patient’s body, he does not need scans and X-rays to learn about the patient’s physical condition; children can interact with molecules when they are learning molecules; just look at the machine to know the maintenance and maintenance of the machine. Maintenance, what a wonderful thing!

Devices that support augmented reality are usually dedicated head-mounted displays (HMD) or head-up displays (HUD), similar to protective gear (for example, Microsoft’s HoloLens), helmets or glasses, and handheld devices (for example, smartphones or tablets) . Intelligent research such as Intel’s Recon Jet™ Pro integrates smartphone functions into lightweight glasses, enabling interaction with remote enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This glasses is not only a Display module, but also enables remote communication. Some vendors are expanding with other objects to generate enhanced elements such as projectors, tables, or lamps, or through the flat Panel Display itself. With these advancements, AR users will no longer be trapped in bulky helmets or glasses.

Next-generation healthcare technology

With the increasing trend of population aging, medical costs in many areas have remained high. The development of medical technology can not only reduce the costs of hospitals, medical service providers and insurance companies, but also provide better and less traumatic treatments. . Here, augmented reality technology is used as a preventive measure to allow healthcare professionals to receive data in non-traditional ways.

Healthcare giant Cigna just launched a project called BioBall this year. The project uses Microsoft HoloLens technology to test the patient’s blood pressure and body mass index in an interactive game. The patient holds a light, medium-sized ball and captures what flashes on the screen within a minute. BioBall perceives the player’s pulse and uses the response light to connect the game with the player’s heartbeat. After the game is over, patients can listen to their own health data through headphones, and corresponding health recommendations will be sent to the relevant mailboxes simultaneously. Cigna pointed out that this technology aims to encourage people to manage their bodies by understanding their own health data, and to enable people to obtain targeted treatments.

The Augmentarium Virtual and Augmented Reality Laboratory at the University of Maryland is using AR to improve the way ultrasound works in healthcare (Figure 1). Barbara Brawn-Cinani, deputy director of the Center for Health Informatics and Bioimaging (CHIB) at the University of Maryland, said that with the help of Microsoft HoloLens and special software, doctors wearing AR devices can directly see the patient and ultrasound imaging instead of going through a screen on the side. observe.

Augmented Reality: Go beyond games and create real-world solutions
Figure 1: Doctors use HoloLens and augmented reality software to observe ultrasound directly in front of patients (Source: University of Maryland)

Ultrasound is only the beginning of AR. Brawn-Cinani said, “Now we are just exploring the surgical application. We are planning to use a similar interface for other imaging methods and conduct field tests to determine the actual effect of this tool.”

Other companies are developing new platforms to use AR for more complex surgeries. For example, Scopis is developing a tool to enhance surgeons’ vision during spinal surgery.

Old wine in new bottles

At the same time, AR is opening up new educational methods to stimulate children’s interest in learning, or in some cases, to help students with learning difficulties catch up with other students. The AR project of the University of Helsinki in Finland stimulates the potential of children with poor grades in learning science by helping children to interact virtually with molecular movements in physics such as gas, gravity, sound waves and airplane wind. They found that for these children with poor grades, AR helps them narrow the gap with other students, and at the same time helps improve the learning level of high-achieving students.

AR also creates a new type of learning through “old wine in new bottles”. For example, the University of Helsinki stated that the use of AR in learning has become more attractive, and the Pokémon Go game has confirmed this. Similarly, using new technology to explain the old world is also the original intention behind Shifu’s Orboot interactive STEM device (Figure 2). Orboot is an augmented reality education globe that can be used with a tablet or smartphone to allow children to learn about history, animals, monuments, language, art, weather and culture by interacting with 3-D content.

Augmented Reality: Go beyond games and create real-world solutions
Figure 2: A child uses Orboot to learn about different weather patterns in a specific area of ​​the country (Source: Shifu)

This information provides a more immersive learning experience through the three-dimensional model, dubbing and music generated by AR. Shifu said that our goal is to promote active learning and enhance memory, which is impossible to achieve with video content alone.

New type meeting room

Projection-based AR is becoming a new method of projecting virtual elements in the real world, and bulky helmets or glasses will gradually withdraw from the stage of history. Therefore, this type of AR has gradually become a popular choice for home or office use. Start-up companies Lampix and Lightform are developing projection-based AR for conference rooms, retail displays, hotels, digital signage, etc.

Lightform’s equipment can be connected to any projector, similar to Go Pro, and can instantly generate augmented reality elements (Figure 3). This may help multiple teams work together in an office, create new elements for artists in a studio, or showcase new products in a retail signage application.

Augmented Reality: Go beyond games and create real-world solutions
Figure 3: The device can be connected to any projector to create AR elements for retail, home or office (Source: Lightform)

“We think the influx of this technology is 5 minutes,” said Phil Reyneri, the design director of Lightform. “If you want to stay in the office for a long time, you can wear an AR or VR headset. But if it’s a fast experience, for example, Walking into a store or shopping mall will be an extremely relaxing experience. In addition, since everyone does not need to wear expensive head-mounted displays, many people can experience augmented reality at the same time.”

Lampix has developed a luminaire that uses projection modules, vision modules and computers to project augmented reality onto moving surfaces. Lampix CTO and co-founder Mihai Dumitrescu said that because there is no need for head-mounted displays or glasses, this lamp-type device can be placed in a conference room to achieve collaborative work on-site and off-site.

“AR must be seamlessly integrated into daily life to make sense. Applications that incorporate AR are full of endless potential and will improve our daily activities,” Dumitrescu said. “The focus should not be on the technology itself, but more on the experience. Lampix is ​​full of potential in achieving this goal. We don’t need to see the physicality of the device because it’s just a very meaningful experience. “

From the discovery of tiny DNA to the vast space

Companies and think tanks around the world are doing meaningful work. In fact, AR is entering almost every industry and market, at least in the pilot phase. For example, in Germany, FleetBoard is developing an application that tracks the logistics of truck drivers to help them conduct a series of inspections before departure. The FleetBoard Vehicle Lens application (Figure 4) uses smartphones and software to provide real-time image recognition to identify truck license plates. After that, the relevant information is superimposed in augmented reality to speed up preparations before departure.

Augmented Reality: Go beyond games and create real-world solutions
Figure 4: The FleetBoard Vehicle Lens application is a pilot project that can track the license plate of a truck and overlay the information in augmented reality (Source: FleetBoard)

FleetBoard has also combined with Microsoft’s HoloLens to create a new way of managing truck fleets. On the abstract road map, the road surface is brought to life through augmented reality technology. Fleet managers can monitor vehicles in a three-dimensional environment to prevent accidents and delays, and warn drivers of possible problems on the road ahead.

Last winter, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands began to cooperate with emergency teams to use AR as a tool for crime scene investigations. The handheld AR system allows on-site investigators to cooperate with remote forensic teams to maximize the restoration of the scene. AR can also present multiple perspectives of the crime scene, and these perspectives are usually ignored by the on-site investigators. This is extremely helpful in finding DNA traces, preserving evidence, and obtaining medical help from external sources.

Sandia National Laboratory is using augmented reality as a tool to train users in vulnerable areas such as nuclear weapons or nuclear materials. Physical security training can help guide users through real-world examples (such as theft or sabotage) drills, and be fully prepared in advance when an incident occurs. The independent AR headset can be used for remote training, and the cost is low.

In Finland, the VTT Technical Research Center recently developed an augmented reality tool for the European Space Agency (ESA) for astronauts to monitor equipment in space in real time. Because these tasks must be performed on time and without errors, AR can allow astronauts to perform more in-depth practice by coordinating activities with experts in mixed reality. This tool visualizes the telemetry data (for example, diagnostics and latest maintenance data, life cycle, radiation, pressure, or temperature) of equipment and other systems on the space station, so that invisible elements can be traced, whether in space Still on the ground, all information is displayed on the AR glasses at a glance.

In the United States, Daqri International uses computer vision for industrial AR to visualize data when working on a machine or in a warehouse. Daqri’s glasses and head-mounted displays display project data, tasks that need to be completed, and potential problems with the machine in the field of view, and can even show where objects need to be placed or repaired. Using AR can improve the safety and efficiency of industrial workplaces, while making repairs, maintenance, and inventory management easier.

Augmented Reality: Go beyond games and create real-world solutions
Figure 5: Workers view the tasks to be completed in Daqri’s AR head-mounted display or glasses in the form of visual elements (Source: Daqri)

in conclusion

Augmented reality is a technology that combines real-world objects or environments with virtual elements generated by sensory input devices of sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. AR runs in real time and interacts with objects in the environment to superimpose virtual content with the real world. Although Pokémon Go continues to be popular with gamers, companies around the world continue to demonstrate the potential of using augmented reality to solve real-world problems and needs. The law enforcement, education, logistics, construction and other industries are currently prototyping and using AR technology, and have achieved good results, such as more effective and efficient training, monitoring, and collaboration. As for the future of AR? With the continuous development of augmented reality technology, its widespread application in reality is just around the corner.

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