When Facebook broke the news of its change to Meta and the plans for the Metaverse everybody was talking about the use of augmented reality and how we would use AR to interact in the Metaverse. Great stuff, I thought though still some time away for us. It did however get me thinking about some of the real-world applications of AR that we may or may not be aware of. While it seems like a novelty technology that is for gamers and other enthusiasts let’s see if the following applications will change your mind.
I love this application because it makes real-world sense and is available if you have the right device. Wi-Fi AR is an app that uses your phone’s camera to superimpose images that show the strength of signals for your phone. You can use Wi-Fi AR to find the best spots to pick Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G signals. We all appreciate that no matter how good your internet connection is it will perform better in some spots than others. This application of AR helps you find the better spots.
I watch a lot of football as I’m sure many people do. One day while watching an Italian Serie A match I saw an advert on the sideline advertising board for an African company. I thought to myself that’s weird and I was right to. This is another really impressive application of AR. The broadcasters through the use of AR superimpose images onto the advertising boards, the same way that images can be imposed onto pitches. The AR element allows advertisers to show different superimposed images to different audiences. So the broadcaster of the Italian match can sell advertising space to different customers in different territories. This concept is really impressive as it’s done in real time.
Shopping and retail
A couple of years ago I came across Wanna Kicks, which was an interesting application of AR. The app through your phone’s camera would superimpose images of sneakers onto your feet to give you an idea of what the shoes would look like on you. It wasn’t perfect but it was the first step. Now we are seeing the same concept being applied in more places in retail. While sneakers and clothing are difficult to do this perfectly on because they move around. However, household items are the perfect fit and some applications will allow you to superimpose the image of an item in your living space to get a look at it in situ.
Taking it a step further paint retailers and home improvement suppliers have applied AR to paint. The concept is simple but incredibly effective. Thinking of changing the colours in your house but not sure how it will look? Simple, use one of their AR apps to see through your phone or device what your house would look like with the new colour. This is amazing if you are considering such a huge change and gives you a chance to visualise even your craziest ideas as you try to decide which way to go.
So far we’ve looked at concepts that use an ordinary device and not the specialised AR glasses which have hit the market. Through the use of AR and sometimes special motion tracking gloves, AR has been used to allow manufacturers and creators to interact with models of their creations. AR allows you to interact with a real-size image of a design in 3D. It doesn’t end there as you can also enlarge the model to see things in finer detail. Not something I’ll be using anytime soon but those involved in machinery design can make great use of this AR application.
There was a game that caused a huge stir that used AR elements. That game was Pokemon Go which caused quite a sensation. The idea was you would go around collecting made up animals and creatures, which appeared in your phone screen superimposed onto the natural environment. Econet tried to launch a similar promotion but it pretty much disappeared as soon as it was announced. Understandable because as we noted then that AR requires the mobile to have cameras that are equipped with a depth sensor. While widespread in the latest flagships it is not so prevalent in the mid and budget range as well as older flagships. However, superimposing images onto landscapes has been very useful in navigation. For example, newer cars with in-car displays can superimpose directions to get to a place someone is driving to. And this is likely going to be the biggest application of AR soon.
As you can see AR is more than people wearing weird headsets. It has massive potential to change the way people do things and even live their lives.