Mobile Augmented Reality (AR) is AR that goes with you wherever you go with your smartphone. Augmented Reality technology --also known as spacial computing-- has been around for some decades already.
However, AR technology has only been considered an emerging technology and included on technology trends lists during the past few years.
Yet, the first AR technology was developed at Harvard University back in 1968, when electrical engineer, computer scientist, and pioneer of computer graphics Ivan Sutherland created an AR/VR head-mounted display system (Sword of Damocles) connected to a computer rather than to a camera.
First AR/VR head-mounted display system was developed in 1968
Ivan Sutherland described the Ultimate Display concept that could simulate reality to the point where one could not tell the difference from actual reality.
Sutherland's concept included:
A virtual world viewed through a head-mounted display (HMD) and appeared realistic through augmented 3D sound and tactile feedback
Computer hardware to create the virtual word and maintain it in real-time
The ability users had to interact with objects in the virtual world in a realistic way
Ivan Sutherland described the Ultimate Display concept that could simulate reality to the point where one could not tell the difference from actual reality:
“The ultimate display would, of course, be a room within which the computer can control the existence of matter. A chair displayed in such a room would be good enough to sit in. Handcuffs displayed in such a room would be confining, and a bullet displayed in such a room would be fatal. With appropriate programming such a display could literally be the Wonderland into which Alice walked.”
His concept would become a core blueprint for the concepts that encompass virtual reality today. In 1988, Ivan Sutherland won the AM Turing Award, the highest honor in computer science.
However, it was not until 2016 that Augmented Reality truly became popular when people around the world played Pokemon Go.
Augmented Reality technology has been used in fields such as education, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, construction, automotive, engineering design, aerospace, and also military. AR as well as VR and MR -- all under the XR umbrella-- have been particularly useful for training.
The fashion industry uses AR to show their customers how they will look in selected pieces of clothing, and companies such as IKEA have created AR catalogs, placing furniture that you can easily move around your house in empty spaces.
Through AR, you can superimpose computer-generated images on top of your view of reality. In essence, this technology augments the vision you experience in your real world.
In earlier stages, Augmented Reality technology could only be seen in show rooms, exhibitions, and multi-player games. Mobile Augmented Reality now makes it possible and accessible for all of us to enjoy the magic and benefits that AR technology brings.
Augmented Reality technology expands the physical world adding multi-layers of digital information onto what we can see with the naked eye. It augments our surroundings by adding sound, video, and graphics. Augmented Reality can be used to enhance life, education, and work.
According to the Market and Research analysis report The Global Mobility Technologies Market 2020 by Company, Type, and Application, Forecast to 2025, the records that global Mobility Technologies set in the past are expected to see another significant increase in market size in the forecast period 2020 to 2025.
The market segments by type covers Bluetooth, Wearable Technology, Mobile Augmented Reality, and Wireless Gigabit. The report was published in June 2020.
The Augmented Reality market is going to be worth $61,39 billion by 2023, according to research firm Markets and Markets.
Mobile AR in education: Augmented Reality apps for iOS and Android
As it was expected with an increase in mobile AR market size, the mobile AR applications available for both iOS and Android have been blooming for the past couple of years.
Application updates have shown improved graphics and user experience. However, the biggest issue is that data needs to be rendered in real-time, so that images and information flow without any lagging.
The low-latency offered by 5G technology today is paramount in order to solve this problem in some geographical areas. Here is a small sample of some of the coolest mobile AR applications for biology, astronomy, history, and translation.
Big Bang AR by CERN
Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton narrates the experience of the 13.8-billion-year-old story of the universe in CERN’s Big Bang AR app. CERN is the European Organization for Nuclear Research headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
The application, developed by CERN scientists, is free and available for download at the Apple Store and Google Play. It uses Augmented or Mixed Reality to create an immersive adventure to explore the origin of the universe.
“One of CERN's missions is to educate and engage people from all over the world with science and technology. With this app, we hope to reach new audiences and share with everyone the story of the origin of our universe in an inspiring way,” says Charlotte Warakaulle, CERN’s Director for International Relations.
CERN has also created six guided tours for Google Arts and Culture’s Inventions and Discoveries page, including one on the invention of the World Wide Web, and another on the discovery of the Higgs boson.
The Big Bang AR app is available for iOS and Android phones. Big Bang AR is a collaboration between CERN and Google Arts & Culture.
BBC Civilisations AR
The BBC Civilisations Augmented Reality app available on iOS and Android enables people to explore historical artifacts from The United Kingdom's museums in virtual exhibitions.
The BBC Civilisations AR app lets users view and explore artifacts virtually. Through Augmented Reality, now it is easier than ever to look at a mummy inside a sarcophagus.
Civilisations AR is a collaboration between BBC Arts, BBC R&D, Nexus Studios, and about 30 museums and galleries from across The United Kingdom.
The Civilisations AR app's exhibits include:
An ancient Egyptian mummy from the Torquay Museum
Rodin's The Kiss from the National Museum of Wales
The Umbrian Madonna and Child from the National Museum of Scotland
Turner’s painting Bridge over the Moselle from the Oldham Museum and Art Gallery
The Rosetta Stone from the British Museum
Civilisations AR allows people from across the globe to discover remarkable objects and explore them in perfect detail no matter where in the world they may live.
If you had to dissect a frog --or any other small animal-- in high school you know how cruel and inhumane it can be. If you were a rebel, perhaps you refused to stay in your Biology class despite your teacher threatening you with giving you the lowest grade possible, unless you stayed and witnessed the death of the poor animal. But you left the classroom anyway, and went to hide in the bathroom for the entire duration of the dissection. You wondered why there was no other way to learn science.
Today, thanks to Augmented Reality technology and applications such as Froggipedia, now it is possible to study the internal organs without harming and killing any frog. The AR application lets you study the internal organs while still fully functional in the frog. There is an option for dissecting and also a section to study the organs individually.
Froggipedia lets you experience the full 17-week transformation from single-celled egg to wiggling tadpole to fully formed amphibian. Froggipedia is a great educational tool for schools and home education. The app can be used on iPads with Apple pencil or fingers. Froggipedia is currently available for iOS mobile devices only.
You can watch stars, planets, constellations, and even know when the International Space Station (ISS) travels above your area's sky by simply pointing your smartphone up to the sky. SkyView projects a grid of known constellations, stars, and other objects directly on your phone's screen.
SkyView is available on iOS and Android, and it also has a companion application for the Apple Watch. When it comes to learning about the cosmos you can become a little astronomer by simply using your phone and the SkyView app.
The SkyView VR app shows improvements since I first downloaded it when it was a new recommended VR app in the AppStore.
Google Translate AR, with live camera view and Augmented Reality
Google Translate's Augmented Reality feature uses the camera in your smartphone to translate foreign signs, menus, and other items in real-time from one language to another. This is an upgrade to the Google Translate application that we all know.
Google Translate AR can be particularly useful when you are traveling to destinations where it is hard to find a menu translated into your preferred language when you go to a restaurant, and when the waiting staff only speak the local language. Or, at certain airports or train stations.
Google Translate AR can be a great travel companion right at your fingertips. Google Translate AR translates 108 languages, can save your most common phrases for a quick reference, and it is available for iOS and Android phones.
You can choose to download the languages you want to use directly onto the app. This means you will not need an Internet connection to perform the translation. The AR camera feature counts with automatic language detection.