The future is now: Augmented Reality all around us

We still go starry-eyed when we watch Tony Stark gracefully swipe holographic blueprints across his lab, or when we watch Shuri, Black Panther’s genius kid sister, fix physical injuries simply by manipulating a hologram of the patient’s body before her. Their outrageous technology is closer to us than you think thanks to AR.

In AR, digital information presented is directly registered into our real world. Although in movies this technology is portrayed to be too “advanced” and over-the-top for us to behold, it is, in actual fact, all around us.

AR, however, is not to be confused with Visual Reality (VR). While VR fully immerses you in a digitally-constructed world, AR projects images onto the existing backdrop of your actual physical environment wherever you are.

Or you can see it this way: the recent Spielberg film Ready Player One features VR whereas the hologram meetings you see in Kingsman: The Secret Service features AR.

GAMES
Pokémon Go actually contained AR features. That is why you can see the wild Ekans lounging on your sofa and the Butterfree flitting about your neighbourhood playground. Although it is not the first AR game to exist, it has definitely spawned an active following and earned plenty of media attention due to its addictive nature and impressive fandom.

While not on the market, coder Abhishek Singh has several exciting developments in AR gaming. First came Super Mario Bros. where you play the role of Mario (by donning a pair of Hololens) and collect mushrooms that pop up in the real world. Then came Street Fighter: Real World Warrior, where you can project your game character onto real-world spaces and battle it out on your iPhone either as a solo or multi-player game.

Another aspect of AR gaming has been around in Japan for a while – HADO. Teams of 3-4 players don AR headsets and battle it out with the opposing team in a game of digital dodgeball, which basically means you shoot fireballs from your hands, and dodge them by creating a virtual shield (it’s far from being a sedentary game). If you want to give it a try, there’s a HADO in Singapore.

EDUCATION
On the other end of the spectrum, AR is also used to educate.

Did you know that you could’ve experienced what it felt like to visit the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) in the 1950s? Last year, NMS partnered with Google to resurrect the old museum using Google Tango technology. It took six months for the Google engineers to scan every minute detail of the current museum layout in order to make history come alive again. Visitors were able to view the museum’s old artifacts at their exact spot through a portable digital screen during the hour-long tour.

HEALTH

One of the most important aspects advanced technology could add value to is the medical sector, and AR has done its part by introducing Augmedix, a pair of glasses that provides doctors with patient information on command. The product of a collaboration between Glass Enterprise Edition and Sutterhealth, Augmedix presents opportunities for more intimate doctor-patient relationships and convenient patient information storage.

Medical students from Leiden University in the Netherlands, with the help of Microsoft’s HoloLens, are now also able to practise their surgical skills with the HoloAnatomy application that allows them to dissect virtual bodies and better understand the human anatomy.

WORK

AR has also revolutionised the manufacturing and logistics sectors. Big names like DHL and Volkswagen are now utilising AR glasses that display information and instructions in the worker’s line of sight to minimise mistakes and to speed up manufacturing and storage processes.

LOVE

Who needs Tinder when you can have an AR girlfriend? Riding on the hype of movies containing AR love interests, Japan has come up with VR Kanojo, which creates a virtual Japanese girlfriend right before your eyes— that is, if your eyes are looking through a screen. Last year, the Blue Leaf Café in Japan also ensured that all lonely diners no longer have to eat alone again as it became the first café to introduce “AR dates” for each customer.

AR is almost omnipresent, lightening our workload and even allowing our imagination to take a step closer to reality, albeit in some pretty questionable ways. Judging from the impressive speed at which technology is developing, it would not be too far a leap to expect that we could all have an Iron Man suit of our own in the near future.

by Rachel Lim

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