Do you see what I see?

What is Augmented Reality (AR) and how does it work? AR is a technology geared to enhance the knowable physical world by layering digital information onto it. Instead of creating an entirely artificial setting to replace our real one like Virtual Reality (VR), AR only appears in the direct line of sight in an existing setting by adding graphics, videos, and sounds to it.

Many areas of our real-world environment are modified by computer generated objects already. Think of aviation programs or Pokémon or interior design applications. Simply put, AR is an existing view of the real world superimposed with computer generated images to change the perception of reality.

Coined as a term in 1990, AR found its first commercial use in the military and television. It became popular as a personal user interactive application with the advent of the internet and smartphones. AR apps now have a measurable effect on our daily lives through social media and the entertainment industry.

These apps attach digital animation to a special marker with the help of GPS to pinpoint the location. The augmentation part happens in real time and is meant to add context to the real-world environment. A good example are the graphics in football broadcasts that overlay the field with scores and first down line locations.

AR may soon enhance other everyday activities with interactive applications geared toward education and healthcare where can it broaden learning and help diagnose and monitor illnesses. The opportunities for good seem endless – as do the ones to promote bad behaviors. AR will be a boon for those invested in the “fake news” industry model. Videos can be sophisticatedly distorted, and the audio replaced with inflammatory alternative dialogue or sound effects that sway public opinions and cause civil unrest.

We may soon find out how far augmented reality can reach into our lives and if we how much we want it there.