The Potential of Augmented Reality

Navigation

Phones with GPS information and voice instructions are great for finding your way around unfamiliar areas, but you are still required to translate the spoken directions or route on your phone's map to the physical world you are seeing through your windshield. As the auto industry begins to embrace AR, we will start to see navigation systems that utilize a digital windshield to display information directly within your field of view.

This head-up display shows navigation info directly on the windshield. Image courtesy of SCMP.

Travel

Language barriers are already becoming easier to overcome with apps like Google Translate, which has incorporated AR technology into its experience. Point your phone camera at a sign or anything with written text and the text can be translated in real time and in context. The next logical step for this experience is to use it with AR glasses, which would remove the language barrier altogether and make it seem like it is not even there.

Google Translate will translate any written text in real time.

Construction

AR combined with blueprint data can give engineers and maintenance workers invaluable information on the job. From quickly identifying load-bearing areas in a building to locating and mapping underground utility systems, AR can save time, money and guesswork.

AR can show municipal workers the layout of underground utilities like this sewer system. Image courtesy of Bentley Colleague Blogs. 

Education

The ability to show contextual information about an object that is being observed in the physical world will have a profound effect on how and what we learn. The educational potential is limitless. Point your phone or wear your new AR glasses and look at a plant or animal--the display could instantly tell you the species, whether it's dangerous or poisonous and anything else you could possibly want to know about it. Look at the Roman Coliseum and see what it looked like 500, 1,000, or 1,500 years ago.

An app could identify historical monuments and show how they looked years ago.

Marketing

Some major brands already are using AR in their sales apps to help showcase and demo products. The IKEA Place app allows customers to preview furniture in their own homes before buying, and ModiFace is a developer kit that can be used to simulate makeup application. But things will get really interesting once AR glasses become more mainstream. Digital billboards could target each person individually, showing them a personalized ad, and business names could be displayed over storefronts along with hours and sales while you walk down a city street.

View nearby businesses in real time as you walk down the street.

Medicine

Augmented reality even has the potential to save lives. AR apps are being used to help nurses locate veins for injections. X-ray data combined with AR can help surgeons more accurately and efficiently perform their procedures. There is also an app that will show the locations of nearby defibrillators if someone suffers a heart attack.

VeinViewer shows physicians the location of a patient's veins directly on their skin.