July 29, 2013

Augmented Reality – Introduction and its Real World Uses

Augmented reality has been a hot topic in software development circles for a number of years, but it’s getting renewed focus and attention with the release of products like Google Glass. Augmented reality is a technology that works on computer vision based recognition algorithms to augment sound, video, graphics and other sensor based inputs on real world objects using the camera of your device. It is a good way to render real world information and present it in an interactive way so that virtual elements become part of the real world.

Augmented reality displays superimpose information in your field of view and can take you into a new world where the real and virtual worlds are tightly coupled. It is not just limited to desktop or mobile devices. As mentioned, Google Glass, a wearable computer with optical head-mounted display, is a perfect example.

A simple augmented reality use case is: a user captures the image of a real-world object, and the underlying platform detects a marker, which triggers it to add a virtual object on top of the real-world image and displays on your camera screen.

Real-World Examples

  • AR applications can become the backbone of the education industry. Apps are being developed which embed text, images, and videos, as well as real–world curriculums.
  • Printing and advertising industries are developing apps to display digital content on top of real world magazines.
  • With help of AR, travelers can access real-time information of historical places just by pointing their camera viewfinder to subjects.
  • AR is helpful in development of translation apps that can interpret text in other languages for you.
  • Location based AR apps are major forms of AR apps. Users can access information about nearest places relative to current location. They can get information about places and choose based on user reviews.
  • With the help of Unity 3d Engine, AR is being used to develop real-time 3D Games.

The Opportunity

It is estimated that 2.5 billion AR apps will be downloaded annually and will generate revenue of more than $1.5 billion by 2015. This is because AR apps will not be limited to conventional mobile apps. There will be new markets like Google Glass which will open more forms of development and use.

Mobile Augmented Reality Market

Now that we have covered some of the basics of augmented reality, let’s look at what it takes to develop augmented reality apps. You first need to choose development tools. There are two major forms of augmented reality, marker- based AR and marker-less AR.

A marker-based AR works on concept of target recognition. The target can be 3D object, text, image, QR Code or human-face called markers. After detection of the target by AR engine, you can embed the virtual object on it and display it on your camera screen. Qualcomm Vuforia SDK is our recommended framework to develop native apps.

Marker-less AR, also known as location-based AR, uses GPS of mobile devices to record the device position and displays information relative to that location. Some of the examples of marker-less AR are apps like Layar and Wikitude that let you view information of nearby restaurants and other establishments.

Barriers which we need to cross

Although going forward AR seems to have a huge potential market, there are some factors which could slow down mass adoption of augmented reality. Some of the factors are:

  • Public Awareness and reach of Mobile AR
  • Technological Limitations
  • Addressing Privacy Issues
  • Mobile Internet Connectivity in Emerging Markets


To tap this huge market, consumers need to be educated about benefits of augmented reality solutions. At 3Pillar, our mobile development team has developed augmented reality solutions which are available for licensing to clients. With our ‘product mindset’ approach, we are providing robust AR solutions that are tailor-made for our customers.