Recent reports that Apple have acquired Akonia Holographics, a smaller company based in Colorado, brings the world of Augmented Reality (AR) back into focus. Akonia was founded in 2012 by a group of holography scientists and had originally focused on holographic data storage before shifting its efforts to creating displays for augmented reality glasses
According to its website, Akonia say its display technology allows for “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-colour, wide field-of-view images.” The firm has a portfolio of more than 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials.
The terminology surrounding this technology is sometimes difficult to understand. There are many ways businesses can benefit from AR and ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR) or combining both into ‘Mixed reality.’ (MR)
One example is seen with property or estate agents who can run virtual reality tours of property or embed building information through AR. Another way is to provide the ability to visualise how a development will look before it is constructed on site by using mixed reality.
The property industry is just one sector that could benefit from this technology.
In AR, digital information is overlaid on the real world as in the popular game Pokemon.Go. Mobile phones use their camera system to do this on the phone’s screen, but major technology firms are racing to create glasses that will show digital information on transparent lenses.
Augmented Reality (AR)
Items appear in the real world. Achieved, usually, through a smartphone or other device with a camera. Items are ‘placed’ on top of real world views. Good for interior designers, architects and property developers. Showing how fixtures and fittings etc. fit into a room before the rooms exist.
Virtual Reality (VR)
VR is a world that has been entirely simulated. A visual aid or headset is required to immerse users into the digital space. Businesses can use this to show how something will look before it is made or built.
Mixed Reality (MR)
MR is sometimes also called ‘hybrid reality’. It is similar to augmented reality in that virtual objects can react to the real landscape.
Along with these technologies virtual tours can also be done with 360 video. This is when views around a scene are recorded at the same time allowing the user to scope around the complete scene. It is also a relatively simple and affordable way to create interactive content and has been used by estate agents to show what rooms look like or may look like. It has also been used to show the inside of some historic buildings or places where there are famous tourist attractions.
Web VR is a programming interface created for developers, to expand the reach of VR without the need for specialised computer programming. It can be used by companies to generate their own VR applications.
Head Mounted Display (HMD)
This refers to the goggles or headsets used for VR experiences to fully immerse the user into the virtual world. An HMD will have head tracking technology, which means as the user turns his head the field of vision will adapt accordingly.
Optical Head Mounted Display. (OHMD)
The AR version of this is an Optical Head Mounted Display which projects images into the user’s real-life field of vision. This is fuelling the race by companies such as Apple and Google to create augmented reality glasses. Google popularised this with, the now defunct, Google Glass Technology.
Haptic technology recreates the sensation of touch through vibrations or pressure through gloves. Designed to make an experience more real, data gloves that have haptic feedback are often used for fine-motion control, such as ‘picking up’ objects or ‘opening’ doors.
Markers serve as a ‘bridge between the worlds of AR and VR. This could be an object or image that activates associated AR technology.
Triggers are similar to markers but they are ‘read’ by AR applications to provide information, often through geolocation technology used to activate AR at set locations as in Pokemon.Go.