Augmented Reality, or AR, is a highly interactive experience that essentially involves a real world environment whereupon the various objects that are part of the real world are “augmented” by computer ‘software and hardware generated’ perceptual information. This information can cross multiple sensory modalities, and can go on to include auditory, visual, haptic (touch), olfactory (smell) and even somatosensory (pressure, pain and warmth) information as well.
The highly overlaid sensory information can also be constructive, such as seamless additions towards the natural environment, or alternatively it can be considered to be destructive (in laymen’s terms it means the masking of the natural environment).
Augmented Reality is flawlessly interwoven with our physical world to such an extent that it is actually perceived to be a very immersive feature of the real world environment. In this way, AR can easily alter your own perception of the actual real world environment, as it exists outside the computer-generated model. While a VR, or virtual reality, counterpart replaces the user’s own, real world environment with its self-created simulated one, AR adds to it.
Augmented reality can be broadly categorized into two largely (but also uniquely) synonymous terms: They are:
- Mixed reality, and
- Computer-mediated reality
It is sometimes also referred to as a form of hybrid reality. As the term implies, it is the merging of both the real and the virtual worlds, to produce an entirely new environment and its corresponding visualization where both the physical and the digital can effectively co-exist. MR takes place in both the physical as well as the virtual world and is a chief component of immersive technology.
Computer-mediated reality basically refers to a software and hardware system’s ability to not just add but also subtract the information to manipulate a person’s perception of their living reality with the aid of a wearable computer or a hand held device (a smart phone for instance).
Both of these two technologies are part of the broad description of AR, an area of electronic technology that is literally changing the world around us.