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What is Augmented Reality?

Sep 15, 2017

By: Max Cannon

The odds of the average gamer having played around with augmented reality are higher than you expect. Apps like Snapchat and Pokémon Go are excellent uses of AR and the feature was also a big part of Apple's recent iPhone X announcement event. So if you're hearing the term "augmented reality" thrown around recently and are looking to learn about it, you're in the right place.

AR vs. VR

You may have heard of virtual reality as well as augmented reality, while both features have similarities there are big differences in the experiences you'll get from either platform. Virtual reality is a fully immersive experience where you'll wear either VR goggles or a VR helmet, like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, or PSVR. These are games that could also require the use of special peripherals, controllers, and an expensive machine. VR units aren't super common yet so any opportunity you have to try one out should be taken advantage of.

PSVR is the most common VR unit you'll see.PSVR is the most common VR unit you'll see.

Augmented reality changes the world around you on your screen and is almost always on a smart device like a smartphone or tablet -- a camera enabled device is 100% necessary. Images, characters, and menus are superimposed onto the world around you through your device's camera and a lot of the gameplay is based on the player's interaction with the world. While AR titles aren't often big budget games like you'd see on consoles or VR platforms, these games are more accessible due to their mobile platform and have already taken the world by storm. Heck, Nintendo even made use of your face at the launch of the 3DS with a game where players shoot down spaceships of the players face in a real world.

Oculus @ E3 2015 - Step into the Rift


AR Software

AR's use doesn't solely sit around in the world of video games, there are several useful apps that AR help you navigate the world around you. The best example that comes to mind is the slew of AR translation apps. If you're traveling or simply noticing some text that's in a language you don't understand certain apps can translate the world around you with a simple point of the camera. Pointing a camera at a Spanish menu will bring up the items in English if desired, or a map written in Japanese could be translated into German. This changes the way you'll be able to travel around the world and interact with your surroundings.

An AR menu as seen on a Nintendo 3DS.An AR menu as seen on a Nintendo 3DS.

Of course, gaming is undoubtedly a big part of the AR world and that includes the biggest and most popular AR game of all Pokémon Go. Making use of both your smart device's camera and GPS settings, Pokémon Go has players hunting down Pokémon in the real world and then throwing Poké balls at the creatures using your camera and touch screen. This game became so big back in 2016 that for a week players were swarming local gyms which were in-game battle arenas that were set in real world places, you could also find items at well known local landmarks.

AR is going to get more and more ingrained into our technology and with the games and apps we already use making such an impact you can only wonder about what we'll see next.

Have Your Say!

Which AR games have you gotten a chance to play? Share your most memorable AR moments below!