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onvert.com Guide to Augmented Reality

What is AR?

The process of superimposing digitally rendered images onto our real-world surroundings, giving a sense of an illusion or virtual reality. Recent developments have made this technology accessible using a smartphone.

How is it used?

Augmented reality is hidden content, most commonly hidden behind marker images, that can be included in printed and film media, as long as the marker is displayed for a suitable length of time, in a steady position for an application to identify and analyze it. Depending on the content, the marker may have to remain visible.

It is used more recently by advertisers where it popular to create a 3D render of a product, such as a car, or football boot, and trigger this as an overlay to a marker. This allows the consumer to see a 360 degree image (more or less, sometimes the base of the item can be tricky to view) of the product. Depending on the quality of the augmentation, this can go as far as indicating the approximate size of the item, and allow the consumer to 'wear' the item, as viewed through their phone.

Alternative setups include printing out a marker and holding it before a webcam attached to a computer. The image of the marker and the background as seen by the webcam is shown on screen, enabling the consumer to place the marker on places such as the forehead (to create a mask) or move the marker to control a character in a game.

In some cases, a marker is not required at all to display augmented reality.

How does it work?

Using a mobile application, a mobile phone's camera identifies and interprets a marker, often a black and white barcode image. The software analyses the marker and creates a virtual image overlay on the mobile phone's screen, tied to the position of the camera. This means the app works with the camera to interpret the angles and distance the mobile phone is away from the marker.

Due to the number of calculations a phone must do to render the image or model over the marker, often only smartphones are capable of supporting augmented reality with any success. Phones need a camera, and if the data for the AR is not stored within the app, a good 3G Internet connection.