Augmented Reality (Fall 2017 - D100)

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What is Augmented Reality?

The Differences Between AR, VR, and MR

Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of reality, where physical real-world environments are augmented with superimposed images over a user’s view of the real-world, therefore enhancing a user’s perception of reality.[1]

Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality vs. Mixed Reality

When discussing augmented reality, the terms virtual reality and mixed reality often come up. Although the three technologies share similar qualities, there is actually quite a difference between the three.

The differences between the three technologies are based on the level of immersion and interaction. Virtual reality simulates a complete artificial environment using high-performance computers and sensory equipment such as, headsets, and gloves.[2] Meanwhile, mixed reality shares more similar qualities to augmented reality than virtual reality. Mixed reality is defined as the “merging of real and virtual worlds to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time”.[3] Unlike augmented reality and virtual reality, mixed reality allows users to physically interact with the objects that are projected.

How does AR work?

To understand how augmented reality works, one must understand the key components of AR: cameras and sensors, projection, processing, and reflection. The camera and sensors, are used in the first step to essentially scan the user’s environment and collect data about the surrounding area. The device then takes the information to formulate a digital model to determine the appropriate output. The next component, projection, turns any surface into an augmented environment and projects objects/images by processing the information gathered by the camera and sensors. The devices used to display the images could be anything from screens and monitors, handheld devices, or glasses. Since AR devices are high-powered “supercomputers”, they require powerful processors in order to function, such as a CPU, GPU, and RAM. Reflection, is where mirrors are used to reflect light by AR devices to aid with the way the user’s eyes views the image. There are numerous methods in which reflection occurs, however they all have the same objective, which is to align the image to the user’s eyes.[4]

How AR Works

History of AR

History of AR

The most original form of augmented reality is the head-mounted display system developed by Ivan Sutherland in 1968. The system could display computer-generated graphics to show users wireframe drawings. In 1990, Boeing researcher, Tom Caudell, coined the term “augmented reality”. AR was then used in functions such as air-force training and theater. In 1998, when Sportsvision introduced the first virtual first-down marker in a live NFL game, it symbolized that AR was introduced into everyday life. In 2000, ARToolKit, the open-source AR software platform, was established and developers were able to contribute to building AR applications. In 2014, Google introduced Google Glass into the market at a price of $1400 USD, signifying the trend of wearable AR. However, the introduction of the product was unsuccessful because of its limited functions. In 2016, Microsoft Hololens was introduced. Its improved technological features displayed Microsoft’s advancements in AR. Today, all major companies are involved in AR development. From a hardware perspective, besides Hololens, Google and Apple both have AR-compatible cameras built into their newest mobile phones. Apple developed its own AR software platform called ARKit for developers to share their IOS applications with users, while Google introduced ARCore for Android developers.[5]

Hype Cycle

History of AR

Gartner’s Hype Cycle displays the current stage of development for each emerging technology. The vertical axis indicates the market’s level of expectation of the technology, while the horizontal axis highlights the stages of technology as time evolves. The first stage is the innovation trigger, indicating the period when the technology is starting to develop and create buzz. The second stage is the peak of inflated expectation. This stage indicates that the expectation for the technology is the highest and the market is expecting the technology to make huge changes and create great values to the world. The stage of trough of disillusionment occurs when significant obstacles delay the technology from being applicable to real-life situations and when it is unable to achieve its expectations. On the slope of enlightenment, the technological obstacles are overcome and significant improvements are demonstrated. In the last stage, the plateau of productivity, the technology is being used in various applications to solve real-life problems and creates value for users. [6]

Augmented reality is positioned at the trough of disillusionment on the Hype Cycle. [7] AR has been around for almost 20 years after its first application, while fictional movies such as Iron Man and Star Wars constantly induce curiosity into its viewers about the technology by incorporating AR-related components into their publications. However, AR has not yet been adopted into everyday life. Thus, users have decreased their expectation for this technology. Compared to other emerging technologies, deep learning and machine learning are at the peak of inflated expectation. The fast development of these technologies creates a possibility for them to reach the plateau of productivities. Meanwhile, virtual reality is on the slope of enlightenment, as VR applications such as VR games are entering into a fine-tuning stage.


To better understand why AR is at the trough disillusionment on Gartner’s Hype Cycle, one should first understand the obstacles in the development of AR.

How Microsoft Hololens Works


Currently, Microsoft Hololens is the leading AR product on the market. However, the size of Microsoft Hololens is too large to be used in everyday situations. The price of Hololens is also unproportional to the actual value it can create for users. Meanwhile, regular cameras can only capture two-dimensional pictures. However, AR involves analyzing the depth of a image to produce the three-dimensional effect. Thus, a depth-sensing camera is required for mobile devices. Although iPhone 8 comes with a built-in depth-sensing camera, other mobile phone developers still require time in order to update their cameras and have consumers adopt to the changes. [8] It is evident that AR relies on mobile devices to make itself available and convenient for users.

Software and Algorithms

AR technology works in four steps.[9] First, it needs to scan the environment and capture the information with its depth-sensing camera.[10] Secondly, it transforms the image into data and registers the data into its system. Third, the algorithm will interpret the data by figuring out details such as distance and shade. Lastly, the output image is displayed onto the device’s screen. Technicians are currently experiencing difficulty on accurately displaying the output images onto the correct spot.[11] This requires experience and vast improvements for the algorithm to improve. However, this problem could be solved by other evolving technologies.

Interoperability With Supporting Technologies

Augmented reality is incorporated in numerous situations in everyday life. Examples of these situations include: different room settings or input images, the state of the user described by the sensory data and the preferences based on the habits of each user. These situations could be better analyzed and solved by artificial intelligence. Machine learning could also be used to improve algorithms. All of the scenarios experienced by individual machines will be shared with other machines. In this way, AR technology can be applied to all real-life situations. Internet of Things (IoT) is another technology that AR depends on. For example, to make an AR-based smart-home control panel to work, we have to first connect to the light, water, and heater with the internet. The renovation cost is very high and will likely take years before it is adopted in mainstream use. Without IoT, the benefits and functionality of AR cannot be optimized. Cloud computing is also important for AR. AR requires the constant capturing and processing of information. Cloud computing has to be fast and reliable enough for AR to work. It is obvious that the development of AR relies on a chain of other technologies. It is reasonable that it is at the trough of disillusionment because it is such a complex technology that cannot come to fruition instantly.

Advantages of Using AR

Augmented reality allows users to visualize virtual objects into physical settings that can provide useful supplementary information for boosting work efficiencies and providing better understandings of abstract ideas. Like virtual reality, AR collaborates with users into a shared space full with virtual objects, while the users can interact with each other intuitively with natural means of communications such as speech and gestures. Unlike virtual reality, users are not required to purchase a separate device and wear it on their head to make them “socially isolated”, instead users can just use their mobile devices and access augmented reality content by using the screen and camera at any time.[12]

On the other hand, while virtual reality “locks” users into a virtual world, users in an augmented reality environment can maintain “control” of seeing the real, physical world around them. Such freedom of sight not only allows users to look around, but it also reduces the feeling of insecurity and motion sickness that is often associated with virtual reality.[12]

Overall, augmented reality opens up several opportunities for different applications, such as in medical care, education, architecture, commerce, and entertainment.

Potential Uses of AR


Showcase of Accuvein
  • Treatment

Augmented Reality can allow nurses and doctors to visualize veins and enhance medical procedures. The start up company AccuVein, first introduced the technology allowing medical professionals to display images of veins on top of one’s skin.[13] The company claims vein visualization can increase the chances of a successful cannulation that can significantly reduce the patient's pain level and hence, increase their satisfaction level, as well as decrease the possibility of escalations. Since there is a higher rate of success of first cannulation, this technology helps hospitals control the cost of injections.[14]

Orca Health - How AR benefits diagnostic process
  • Diagnostic

According to numerous doctors worldwide, AR platforms can provide patients a better understanding of their diseases and future treatments that may increase their satisfaction towards the whole medical process.[15] Orca Health, which is a medical software company, has developed a mobile app that uses AR technology and the camera of mobile devices to simulate the conditions of a patient’s body, showing patients the potential impacts and demonstrate how the treatment will be conducted on their body. With this application, doctors can identify the understanding of the patients towards their treatment and operations, and address their concerns right away.[16]

Medsights Tech - AR in Operations
  • Operations

Augmented Reality can improve the efficiencies of surgeries as well. With AR, surgeons can visualize previews of organs and relevant medical data on top of the patient’s body, allowing them to conduct a more precise and effective operation. Medsights Tech, introduced a software platform that utilises AR to create a virtual three-dimensional tumor that is visualized into a surgeon’s eyes during an operation.[1]


How AR Will Change Education Completely

Augmented reality can enhance the learning and teaching experience in the classroom. It allows students to share abstract ideas and images, and helps them engages and interact with students and teachers in an active learning environment. By viewing the virtual, augmented object in the lecture, students can get a better understanding of the materials they are learning. Moreover, AR can be used as an enjoyable teaching method to retain students’ attention and reinforce the teaching of concepts, hence reducing the learning curve for students.[1]

Apart from that, augmented reality can reduce the cost of physical materials used in the classroom. In order to explain abstract concepts, most schools will probably purchase prototypes or physical models for detailed illustrations. Yet, getting full set of these physical materials may be costly, as the materials will wear over time and become outdated. With augmented reality applications such as Augment, students can access the virtual augmented objects and interact with their course materials through their mobile devices at any time, and the application will keep updating in order to match the latest updates of the course.[2]


AR in Future of Building
Augmented reality can be used to assist the development of building projects. Thanks to its capabilities of visualizing virtual objects in real life settings, building specialists can visualize computer-generated previews of proposed projects, allowing them to estimate how the structure will fit in the building and foresee potential risks. In addition, specialists can free up their hands by looking at the virtual data through their augmented reality headset, in which they do not need a separate mobile device to do so. As a result, the specialists are now capable of analyzing more data and solving potential construction challenges in the worksite, leading to better work efficiency.[1]


Amazon AR Application
  • Shopping

The trend of online shopping is growing fast for consumers, yet it creates a challenge for furniture and other home appliance retailers. Under online shopping, retailers can no longer use showrooms to showcase customers how the furniture or appliances fit in their homes, which may eventually drive customers away from online shopping. A solution for this problem is augmented reality, which allows customers to visualize their interested items into their homes by using their mobile device’s screen. Companies like Amazon and IKEA have added an AR feature into their mobile app, allowing consumers to see virtual renderings of their interested items and how they will fit into their homes. With the latest efforts by Apple, Google and other technology companies, AR will be more accessible to customers, while the quality of the digital renderings will be improved. In the coming future, AR may impact consumers’ shopping habits drastically one day.[2]

  • Beauty and Fashion

Augmented reality may impact the fashion industry as well. Beauty companies such as L’Oreal and Charlotte Tilbury have started to test the feasibility of AR, by letting customers test and visualize beauty products through their mobile phones. These practices are successfully held, as they not only drive sales, but also create an immersive digital shopping experience for consumers.[3]

In the fashion industry, consumers can utilize AR to virtually try on and compare different pieces of clothing, while interacting and visualizing how the clothes fit on their body without going to the actual store. Eventually, this technology will better align customers’ expectations and promote their satisfactions, and will help reduce the return rates that is commonly seen in today’s online apparel businesses.[3]

Navdy AR Device
  • Automotive Industry

Augmented reality has attracted numerous automobile companies’ attentions and has been tested in newly released vehicles. A head up display, which utilizes AR, displays important road and speed information through the car windshield, allowing drivers to stay focused and use less eye movement to search for this information on the road. The company Navdy, has released a device that projects maps, caller name, messages, email notifications and music playlists by using AR, and all this information will be displayed closely in front of the driver’s point of view. As a result, AR can create a safe yet fun driving experience for drivers.[4]

Examples of AR Advertisements

  • Advertisement

Augmented reality creates a new way of advertising. It allows the audience to engage in their surroundings with the advertising product or service, and it creates a memorable experience that builds a continuing relationship with audiences rather than forcing them to receive the information. Campaigns such as “Star Wars: Find the Force 2” allows users to find special digital content from the Star Wars film in designated areas, giving audiences a chance of creating exciting pictures or videos with the virtual ops. The most important aspect is that the audiences will be dragged into the world of the film, which allows them to experience the film in a new and different way.[1]

The Machines - An AR Game For iOS Devices


Gaming companies are gradually implementing augmented reality with their games. This technology allows players to experience the game in a physical environment, creating an immersive experience for gamers. Pokemon Go, the world’s first AR game was a huge success, luring players to catch virtual monsters in a real life environment. Disney has released an AR game, Star Wars: Jedi Challenges, that uses a headset, a controller and a motion tracker to simulate fight scenes with the movie characters.[1] Yet, it is noteworthy that the development of AR games are in the beginning stages of development, in which the accuracy of motion tracking and the overall user experience still needs to be polished before becoming widely popular. Still, this technology opens up new opportunities for gaming companies and players to interact with the game.[2]

Driving Forces of Popularity of AR

Apple, Google and Microsoft have taken different approaches in developing augmented reality. Yet, these developments will drive the popularity of this technology.


  • ARCore

Google has introduced its ARCore developer platform, which is a set of computer code that helps developers create AR apps on android devices. It was launched on Google’s Pixel phone and the latest Samsung Galaxy devices in August. It is expected that this feature will be compatible with other mid-range and low-end android devices over the next couple of years, and more than a million android devices will be capable of using AR in 2018.[3]

  • Project Tango
An example of a Project Tango capable smartphone by Lenovo, which usually consists of multiple camera sensors

Before releasing ARCore, Google initially took a more sophisticated approach towards AR. Google first developed Project Tango, a specialized mobile platform that uses a special depth-sensor to display augmented information. This allows mobile devices to display a further range of augmented images on the screen. However, this approach increases the cost and difficulties of smartphone development, where only two mobile phone manufacturers have supported the project so far. Moreover, even though it was first released in 2014, the lack of support by the hardware and software developers on this platform hinders it being widely adopted in the consumer market. Hence, Google has decided to switch the focus on the development of ARCore instead.[4]


AR capabilities of iPhone thanks to the ARKit integration
  • ARKit

Apple has recently made a huge effort on the development of AR with the release of ARKit. Its latest release, IOS 11 for its tablet and mobile devices, has driven hundreds of millions of users to try AR. This computer code solves the most sophisticated technical problem of AR applications, driving more developers to develop AR capable apps for IOS devices. To enhance the capabilities of virtual rendering, Apple has released its new chipset in its latest released iPhone models, enabling a better optimized and realistic augmented reality experience for users.[5]


An Illustration of Microsoft's Mixed Reality Device
  • Hololens

Instead of mere AR, Microsoft focuses on the development of mixed reality, which is a combination of virtual and augmented reality and allows user to interact with virtual objects in the physical world. It shows various potential applications in areas such as gaming, video conferencing, web browsing, social networking, designing, and holograms of distant person. The University of British Columbia, has recently partnered up with Microsoft to use the Hololens device in medical course lectures, allowing instructors to demonstrate complex brain structure and spatial relationships of different brain parts by interacting with the holographic brain images. Students can understand the materials and concept better and visualize the abstract components that was hard to understand beforehand.[1]

The adoption rate of mixed reality is relatively lower than virtual and augmented reality, but it is expected to grow in the coming years, as Microsoft has partnered with companies such as, Acer and Hewlett-Packard to offer more choices of mixed reality headsets for the holiday seasons in late 2017 and 2018.[2]

Concerns and Issues of AR


The use of wearable AR devices such as glasses and headsets, can cause the user to experience a type of motion sickness called “simulator sickness”. This is due to the user having to focus on an image that is projected right in front of their face while they are in motion.[3] Wearable AR devices can also damage one’s eyesight, as focusing on a screen right in front of your eyes can cause the user to become cross-eyed and experience eye-strain.[4]

Social Detachment

The abundance of information presented by augmented reality can lead to information overload, which can cause users to become socially detached to the real world. Simply put, users will be spending a large amount of time in a virtual world, causing them to miss out on their social lives, while changing the way they see and think about things.[5]


WayRay Augmented Car Windshield

Most people believe that distraction is the most obvious danger associated with AR, since it projects an abundance of confusing images into a user’s field of vision. Using augmented windshields as an example, drivers may misjudge the speed of oncoming cars, underestimate reaction time, and ignore the hazards of navigating in the real world. AR users could remove or turn off the devices to return to reality and avoid distraction however, with future wearable devices such as contact lenses or implanted devices, it could hard or impossible to remove. Meanwhile, it is already difficult to evade current non-wearable systems such as, car windshields.[6]

Privacy and Security

Augmented Reality being Used to Display Personal Information

With information technology, there is always a threat of hackers breaching AR systems, leading to privacy invasions and data and physical security risks, such as deceiving users into believing computer-generated objects are real. To use augmented reality, users therefore must place their trust in AR applications that overlay real-world visual, or haptics perceptions with virtual images.

The issue of privacy and security applies to bystanders and non-users as well, as people do not like being filmed unknowingly. Always-on cameras and sensors can allow users to access personal and private information that one should not possess, which has affected the development and widespread acceptance of AR. This is accomplished through facial recognition technology, if AR devices automatically displays information about someone that the user sees. Such information obtained could range from anything on social media, criminal records, and marital status.[7]

In terms of applications, companies usually ask for consent to use the data that you’re sending back to them when using their applications. However, most companies assume that if you’re using their technology, you’re automatically allowing them to access your information, in which they could possibly change the algorithm to access more of your daily activity and information.[8]


Augmented Reality Games - Legal Concerns

With the privacy and safety concerns surrounding AR, massive regulation is required to address the issues consumers are concerned with. However, there are no laws in place to address these issues. Outside of Pokemon Go, AR is not integrated enough in society to be to be studied with concrete data. It is for this reason that there are currently no laws prohibiting a company from using the information gathered through AR.[1]

Cultural Conflict

In Russia, A Pokemon Hunt Can End In Prison

On May 11, 2017, Russian YouTuber Ruslan Sokolovsky, was given a 3.5 year suspended sentence for inciting religious hatred by playing the AR game Pokemon Go in a church and uploading a video of his gameplay onto YouTube. According to judge Yekaterina Shoponyak, who convicted Sokovsky, Sokolovsky manifested “a disrespect for society and intended to offend religious sentiments”. Similarly, Pokemon Go gameplay has been condemned and banned in public places in the State of Milwaukee located in the United States, but rather for the damage caused to public property.[1]

In the case of the Russian churches, it is not the physical damage to property that is being contested, but rather it’s when a sacred place for religion becomes a playground for a video game. With the use of AR, physical real-world environments act as the base component in the creation of new media. The media produced by AR may be intended to be personal, but in the day and age of social media, nothing remains private.

As the popularity of AR increases, certain norms are bound to be challenged and legal systems will need to incorporate regulation as to who should have control and access when digital culture crosses the path of public or private property.

Future of AR (The Next Big Thing)

Mixed Reality is The Future
Installed Base of Actively Used Mobile AR Apps by Application Type, World Markets: 2014-2019

Despite being in the trough of disillusionment in Gartner’s Hype Cycle, augmented reality will continue to be used for many years to come. However, the growth of AR is limited. With the continued development of mixed reality, AR is eventually going to be overtaken by mixed reality in mainstream use. The aspects of mixed reality offers more interaction and integration with the real-world, unlike AR. With this said, as AR develops, it’ll become more portable and powerful and offer greater human interaction with the technology, but at that point, the technology will then be considered as mixed reality.

As for AR itself, experts believe the future of the technology will lie in the mobile device market with the releases of ARCore by Google and ARKit by Apple.[1] With the large amount of time that consumers spend on their mobile phones, tech giants envision the future of AR to be more modest, and being more likely to catch on in the mobile device market than in any other market. Mobile screen time takes up most of the screen time of consumers, as it’s simple, portable, and easily accessible. The content available on mobile devices is simply more available than ever. With this said, most people generally don’t want technology to guide them into a whole different world. People just want technology to make their lives easier and solve problems.


Nick Chan William Su Peter Duan
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada
Beedie School of Business
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC, Canada


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