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What is Augmented Reality? Introduction, Applications and Threats

  • Mallika Rangaiah
  • Apr 14, 2020
  • Updated on: Jan 22, 2021
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Remember Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) designing his celebrated Iron Man suit through its holographic image?


  • Or imagery being casually flung onto translucent screens through gloved gestures in Tom Cruise’s Minority Report?
  • Or a character embedded with a Heads-Up Display unit that consistently provides updated data through visual overlay in Terminator? 


If you’re familiar with these movies, you'll have some notion regarding the concept of Augmented Reality. (Speaking of movies, if you like you can take a look at our blog on the role of Internet of Things (IoT) in Movies)


We’ve all come across Augmented Reality at some point or the other in our lives. Be it while playing a game of Pokemon Go, amusing ourselves by clicking selfies trying out those wild Snapchat filters, decorating our homes through the IKEA app, or even while trying out different varieties of makeup with the L’Oreal app


That’s augmented reality. To be present in the real world, yet to be able to interact with something that you can see and manipulate which isn’t really there.


“ [AR] is the direction that I think is far more interesting and promising — for technology and, really, for humanity. AR is designed to add, enhance the things you do as a human being: Being outside, socializing with other people, shopping, playing, having fun. AR can make all those things better.” 

  John Hanke, CEO, Niantic, Inc


So, what exactly is Augmented reality?


In layman's terms, Augmented Reality is a technology that enhances the real world by affixing layers of digital elements onto it. These elements include computer-generated graphics, sound or video effects, haptic feedback, or sensory projects.


The intention behind adding this digital information is to provide an engaging and dynamic customer experience that is enabled with the input received from varied hardware like smart glass, smart lenses, and smartphones. 


Augmented Reality (AR) is often mistaken with Virtual Reality (VR). The main difference between the two is that while Virtual Reality replaces the entire real environment with an artificial one, Augmented Reality is applied in a direct view of an existing real environment and adds elements like sounds, videos, or graphics onto it. 


The term Augmented Reality was coined back in 1990 by Boeing researcher Tom Codell and one of the first commercial uses of this technology was in television and the military. As the world shifted towards becoming more technology-driven, AR became increasingly prominent in multiple fields, rolling out its second wave and drawing its connection towards the interactive concept.  As the technology develops there emerge several new trends in Augmented Reality.


(Related blog: An Introduction to Human Augmentation)



Now how does the AR technology work?


When we use a device or application enabled with the AR technology the hardware of the device or application captures the object's picture, sharing it with the computer vision program which then processes the image to gather all relevant details like the measurements of the object, any other objects which are present on the same surface, while also calculating how far these other objects are from the main object in focus.  


By applying these insights the AR-enabled device will then develop and create virtual information that will serve as an overlay over the real object, giving a unique customer experience.


Applications of Augmented Reality


Augmented reality has highly advanced and developed over recent years. Yet the world of Augmented Reality is not just limited to the fun Snapchat filters we get to apply on our smartphones, as fun as they might be, nor to a game of Pokémon Go.


From interactive and engaging weather reports to assisting fighter pilots in locating their targets day or night, AR has now established itself as an impressive tool for the industry as well as the general public. 


AR’s Role in Military


A crucial application of Augmented Reality in the case of the military field is Heads-Up Display (HUD). In this technology, a transparent display is placed directly in the view of the fighter pilot. This display facilitates data for the pilot which includes information on the horizon line, airspeed, and altitude along with other imperative data.


Here “heads up” implies that owing to the display the pilot doesn’t need to look down towards the aircraft’s instrumentation to access the information he requires. 


Another application is the Head-Mounted Display (HMD) which is adopted by ground troops. This crucial data including the location of the enemy can be displayed within the line of sight of the soldier. This technology is also adopted for developing simulations to assist in training. 


AR’s Role in Medical


This technology is adopted by medical students to assist them in practicing surgery within a controlled environment. Visualizations help in demonstrating complex medical conditions to patients. Augmented reality also facilitates enhanced sensory perception for surgeons thus helping in reducing the chances of risks in operations. Combined with an MRI or X-ray Augmented Reality can provide everything within a single view for the surgeon. 


In the case of surgical applications, AR’s role in Neurosurgery remains most prominent. The technology’s capacity of developing a 3D image including exact coordinates of the brain, on top of the real anatomy of the patient becomes highly advantageous for the surgeon. 

You can also sneak a peek at our blog on Healthcare Data Analytics


AR’s Role in Navigation


One of the areas where AR has proven its worth with most prominence has been in the case of Navigation applications. 

Yet in today’s world, AR navigation has emerged as a fruitful solution. These programs enable adding real-world objects accompanied with many tips that are glimpsed from the app screen while hovering the device's camera over them. These tips include information regarding buildings and routes, where the bus is going or where a certain shop or restaurant is located, etc. 


This image shows the role of Augmented Reality in Navigation

Role of Augmented Reality in Navigation


Advanced GPS systems adopt augmented reality to facilitate flawless navigation from Point A to Point B. With the assistance of the smartphone’s camera as well as the GPS the user can observe the selected route in place of the live view in front of the car. 


AR’s Role in Tourism and Sightseeing


When it comes to Tourism, the most prominent application of AR has been introducing interactive elements into hotels to enhance the user’s experience. This aids hotels and resorts in facilitating useful information to customers when required. (Check out how such information can be handled and monitored in terms of Big Data in the tourism industry)


For instance, The Hub Hotel from Premier Inn, a British resort, made augmented reality compatible through the wall maps it places in hotel rooms. When observed with a smartphone or tablet, the wall maps include extra information about some of the local places of interest, serving as a kind of tourist information tool.


Along with hotels, various other companies within the industry are designing AR apps to enable tourists to augment physical locations and tourist attractions. This implies that a user can point their smartphone at a building or landmark and learn more about it, in real-time. For instance, it allows the user to point their phone at a restaurant and be provided information regarding its menus or reviews.


AR’s Role in Maintenance and Repair 


Augmented Reality enables its users to improve their field of view through real-time superimposed digital data. This enables users to garner data relating to an asset or gain access to step by step instructions on topics like how an asset can be repaired. A head-worn display can assist a mechanic in fixing an engine to see superimposed representation and data in his real view. The strategy could be displayed in a portion in the corner, and images of the vital tools can explain the specific movement the mechanic needs to carry out. The expanded reality framework can mark all the significant parts.


Complex procedural fixes can be broken down into a progression of basic steps. Through this technology, simulations can be utilized to prepare technicians, helping in cutting down on training costs, human errors, reducing the execution duration as well as breakdowns, and also cutting down on downtime.


AR’s Role in Gaming 


The recent developments in technology, as well as computing power, have paved the pathway for AR to establish itself within the gaming industry. With head-worn systems growing more affordable and computing power getting more portable, AR is highly enhancing the gaming experience. One such popular game is Pokemon Go, which was released in 2016 and went on to become the new trend.


In the game, players locate and capture Pokemon characters that pop up in the real world, be it on a sidewalk, in a fountain, maybe even in your own bathroom. (You can also sneak a peek at our blog on Extended Reality)


Various popular Android and iOS AR apps include Ingress, SpecTrek, Temple Treasure Hunt, Ghost Snap AR, Zombies, Run! and AR Invaders.



Threats of Augmented Reality


1. Excessive generation of Information


With the world becoming increasingly driven by digitalization the rise of social media (Such as Instagram and Tik Tok) and the internet has led to a significant increase in the development and sharing of data. With the advancement of smartphones, it has become easier for the public to access extensive amounts of data from multiple sources, a threat that is only enhanced with emerging AR technologies like AR smart glasses. This overload of data and information can lead to stress and confusion thus resulting in a delay in action. 


2. Impairment in Perception


The glasses enabled with AR technology pose a danger of endangering the perception of the consumer. The glasses may be created using substandard design or manufacturing processes which can hence endanger the perception of its consumer and also cause dire consequences depending on the application. Thus safeguarding the quality standards of the AR equipment becomes imperative for its successful application. (Since we are talking about the manufacturing process, you might also be interested in the role of IoT in the manufacturing industry)


3. Might prove to be a Distraction


While AR definitely provides fruitful information for its users, newbies and employees recently equipped with the technology may find it confusing or a distraction. When it comes to activities like driving or surgeries AR proving to be a distraction can be extremely dangerous. It becomes a priority for organizations to train their users to deliver a smooth transition from non-AR to AR-enabled activities.


The image shows the Threats of Augmented Reality from security dangers, excessive generation of information, endangering privacy, impairing perception to proving to be a distraction

Threats of Augmented Reality


4. Could Endanger Privacy


Since the AR experience is carried out by first taking in the present physical environment, interpreting it and then enhancing it with extra digital information, a large degree of data is collected and this includes not just the data of the device’s user but also the data of any additional people being viewed through the device. This could endanger one’s personal privacy and prove to be a major issue once the technology rises in popularity. Strategizing methods to preserve personal privacy thus becomes a challenge in AR’s application. 


5. Security Dangers


When it comes to cybersecurity dangers and unapproved access through hacker attacks and malware, like all associated technologies, AR is vulnerable to the same. Like some other associated technology, These attacks can prompt refusal of service or overlay wrong data, leading to extreme and dire results.


For example, a hacker can mislead a driver utilizing an AR-controlled route framework and cause mishaps. The real-life dangers of AR cannot afford to be overlooked despite its popularity. If not addressed at their initial stage, these hazards can lead to significant difficulties and aggravations.





“I’m excited about augmented reality because unlike virtual reality, which closes the world out, AR allows individuals to be present in the world but hopefully allows an improvement on what’s happening presently.”  - Tim Cook


In today’s world augmented reality is applicable for almost all sectors. Leading tech giants such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook are making extensive use of the technology’s software. In the later years, we can observe a great degree of growth in industries that adopt AR, as they expand its application incorporating it into their everyday operations. By adopting augmented reality, advancement can be brought in multiple fields especially if we consider the future of augmented application development.


This blog hopefully sheds some light on the fascinating phenomenon which is Augmented Reality, while also at the same time highlighting the various contrasting aspects of it for you to speculate and reflect upon. 

Latest Comments

  • unichrone78

    Apr 15, 2020

    Nice information.

  • Jayson_Upreal

    Sep 27, 2023

    Great article. The benefits of Augmented and Virtual reality are endless and AR/VR technology will continue to develop in the years to come. I know an AR agency that provides quality AR/VR services. Check out their website: https://uprealdigital.com/