How does augmented reality work? Is it similar to virtual reality? It is similar in that the user views a series of images via a pair of 3D glasses or a head mounted display (HMD). Augmented reality glasses are worn in the same way as virtual reality glasses in that they enable the wearer to interact with these images as part of the overall experience.
Difference between augmented reality and virtual reality
The difference between augmented reality and virtual reality is the level of immersion. Virtual reality is based upon a complete simulation of a real world environment which the user can explore and interact with by means of a head mounted display (HMD) and input device, e.g. data glove. The user loses or immerses themselves in this environment.
But with augmented reality the user sees the real world but with the addition of computer generated images which are overlaid on various objects within the real world. They are still aware that they are in the real world as compared to the full immersion in a virtual world. They use a device such as a smartphone or a wearable device – complete with a webcam – which contains software that recognises an image and helps displays this onto an object.
Virtual reality replaces the real with the artificial whereas augmented reality enhances real life with artificial images.
Augmented reality is available via mobile phones in particular smartphones such as the iPhone. These phones have GPRS which obtains information about a particular geographical location which can be overlaid with tags etc. Images, videos etc can be superimposed onto this location.
Handheld devices such as smartphones and the iPad are other ways to use augmented reality. They contain software, sensors, a compass and small digital projectors which display images onto real world objects. Another option is a head mounted display (HMD) which is often used in virtual reality applications.
An important issue is that of successfully integrating computer generated images within the real world. They need to be realistic and useful to be of real benefit to the user.