Augmented Reality

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Augmented reality (AR) refers to a display in which simulated imagery, graphics, or symbology is superimposed on a view of the surrounding environment. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. The term is believed to have been coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, an employee of Boeing at the time.

Augmented reality research explores the application of computer-generated imagery in live-video streams as a way to expand the real-world. Advanced research includes use of head-mounted displays and virtual retinal displays for visualization purposes, and construction of controlled environments containing any number of sensors and actuators.

Commonly known examples of AR are the yellow ‘first down’ lines seen in television broadcasts of American football games using the 1st & Ten system, and the colored trail showing location and direction of the puck in TV broadcasts of ice hockey games. The real-world elements are the football field and players, and the virtual element is the yellow line, which is drawn over the image by computers in real time.

Similarly, rugby fields and cricket pitches are branded by their sponsors using Augmented Reality; giant logos are inserted onto the fields when viewed on television. In some cases, the modification of reality goes beyond mere augmentation. For example, advertisements may be blocked out (partially or wholly diminished) and replaced with different advertisements. Such replacement is an example of Mediated reality, a more general concept than AR. Television telecasts of swimming events also often have a virtual line which indicates the position of the current world record holder at that time.

Another type of AR application uses projectors and screens to insert objects into the real environment, enhancing museum exhibitions for example. Many first-person shooter video games simulate the viewpoint of someone using AR systems. In these games the AR can be used to give visual directions to a location, mark the direction and distance of another person who is not in line of sight, give information about equipment such as remaining bullets in a gun, and display a myriad of other images based on whatever the game designers intend. This is also called the head-up display.

In some current applications like in cars or airplanes, this is usually a head-up display integrated into the windshield. The F-35 Lightning II has no head-up display. This is because all targets are tracked by the aircraft’s situational awareness and the sensor fusion is presented in the pilot’s helmet mounted display. The helmet mounted display provides an augmented reality system that allows the pilot to look through his own aircraft as if it wasn’t there.

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