Technology has evolved significantly in recent decades. Inventions such as the Portable Camera, Personal Computer, and Smartphone have changed the way in which we go about our daily lives, simplifying tasks and offering a form of entertainment. However, some things (like going to the shops and going to a Museum) remain unchanged as they offer a physical real-world experience that current technology can’t match. Augmented Reality, on the other hand, has the capability to offer a highly immersive experience through mixing the real world with the virtual world. This could mean you could try on clothes without actually putting them on or viewing interactive information about an artefact at a Museum. So, whilst Augmented Reality has the ability to change everything we do, are these changes for the better or are privacy concerns and the potential loss of real-world experiences going to stop it in its tracks? This article aims to explore these questions by first looking at the origins and history of Augmented Reality, its potential uses, and the benefits and disadvantages for individuals and businesses.
DEFINITION AND ORIGIN
The word ‘augment’ means “to ‘add or enhance something’.
Today, the term – “Augmented Reality” or “AR” is used when referring to ‘an enhanced version of reality where live views of physical real-world environments are augmented with superimposed computer-generated images over a user’s view of the real world’.
The first conceptions of a device similar to those offering AR today was by Frank L Baum in a 1901 sci-fi novel. A set of glasses, known as the ‘character marker’ allowed data to be mapped onto people in the novel.
The first ‘universally recognised’ creation of a device that could offer AR capabilities was invented in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland. The ‘Universal Display’ was a head-mounted display that used computer graphics to show users drawings.
It was not until 1992 where the first properly functioning AR device called ‘Virtual Fixtures’ was invented. This was developed for the Air Force to compensate for the lack of high-speed graphics and overlayed sensory information onto a workspace to improve productivity.
Unlike the past decades where AR technologies were limited and costs for development were too expensive, we now have AR technologies in our phones, computer games and workplaces and can purchase and use them without much difficulty. Devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens and Google Glass are examples of modern-day AR devices.
AR IN COMMUNICATIONS MEDIA AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT
The modern-day evolution of AR is still occurring, with new practical uses becoming available in many different areas, such as communications media and information management. Some of the uses for AR include:
- Holographic communications – currently, Microsoft’s ‘holoportation’ technology can be used to create an ‘in-person experience’, an example being an Executive delivering a message to Colleagues.
- Data visualisation – internal and external audience could use AR to access interactive, live data simulations without having to be physically present.
WHO OWNS AND CONTROLS KEY BUSINESS OF AR?
Due to the fact that AR technology is still evolving, there is no one group who owns or controls its business, nor are there any regulations that govern what companies are allowed to do with it. Companies who currently create AR devices to sell commercially (Microsoft’s HoloLens) and AR apps (AppReal-VR) own their creations and are in charge of enhancing their products’ features. They also must ensure they provide a solution for businesses who use AR for training and workflow purposes.
WHO BENEFITS FROM THE EFFECTS OF AR?
AR technology’s capabilities allow it to have major transformative effects on its users. These bring with it many benefits for businesses and individuals using AR in their daily lives. Some of these effects include:
- The viewing and completion of Government Forms (with a range of accessibility aids)
- Citizens could see what planned public works would actually look like once completed
- Roads and streetlights could be viewed through smart goggles, and experts could provide real-time guidance to field workers. This would eliminate the risk of incorrect construction as well as the cost associated with having this repaired.
Social and Cultural:
- The shopping experience could be enhanced through:
- Using virtual fitting rooms
- Viewing how furniture would look positioned in your house
- When travelling, tourists could view translations of foreign signage as well as extra interactive information on famous places, an advantage for businesses wanting to add an extra layer to the tourist experience
- Museums could have rich content around the artwork. National Parks could have a complete, immersive experience as you walk through.
WHO IS DISADVANTAGED BY THE EFFECTS OF AR?
With the many benefits AR technology brings businesses and consumers, there are also several negative effects of AR that can impact both of these groups as well:
The main concern everyone is worried about when it comes to AR is the invasion of privacy. You may ask why this is the case. Everyone seems to not worry when it comes to the data they store on their computer or mobile phones? Well, the reason comes down to the nature of AR. With computers and smartphones, the only types of data that are at a risk of hacks is the information you choose to view and store there, and these are only ‘hackable’ when your device is switched on. With AR however, there are so many more types of data being utilised (such as visual and sensory information). With the capabilities that AR promises, consumers will more likely be using AR very regularly throughout the day, allowing for a larger risk of hacks.
As well as the heightened risk of hacking, businesses could also utilise your AR data for gathering purposes and ultimately, this allows them to better track your every move. So, whilst you may think AR is extremely practical in your day-to-day life, businesses could be watching and tracking what you’re doing.
Reduced interaction with the ‘real world’:
Another major concern of AR development is the reduced interaction people will have with the real world due to the ‘augmented’ and possibly increased interaction they get from using AR. Whilst some may think that viewing various information about a mountain through an AR device is a great thing, it takes away from the real-world experience they would otherwise have. Experiencing things with your own two eyes, ears and nose provides an experience no other piece of technology can match.
Social media and the internet have already created a place where people can communicate without meeting face-to-face, ultimately creating a platform for antisocial behaviour. With the evolution of AR technologies, this will only increase as more aspects of our lives will revolve around virtual worlds instead of real-world human interaction. You might literally never have to speak with anyone in the real-world ever again!
In conclusion, like with the previous technological innovations, AR technologies bring many benefits and disadvantages to the consumer and businesses alike. Although we have a continuing issue with personal privacy concerns in the modern day, our society has been able to implement regulations to protect individual’s personal information as best as possible, whilst not interfering with the intended benefits of current technologies. Unfortunately, due to the significantly larger amount of data AR uses, we must approach the implementation of this form of technology in a different way than we have before. If we, as a society, wish to start incorporating AR into our daily lives, we must first have a concrete framework and set of regulations which outline our rights as an individual and those of other businesses. So, whilst I, like many others, are intrigued and interested in the proposed benefits of AR devices in our everyday lives, you can be assured that I won’t be investing in one until I am fully aware of what my rights are in terms of privacy. In the meantime, it seems I’ll just have to look at that mountain through my own two eyes.
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