Augmented reality and the Metaverse

Augmented reality and the Metaverse

Augmented reality (AR) is considered one of the fastest-growing and most disruptive technologies in tech. This is in part because of its vast accessibility, or at least its potential to be vastly accessible.

What is augmented reality?

Many of today's consumers already have access to augmented reality, thanks to the more than 6.6 billion people that own a smartphone around the world. The estimated value of the global AR market in 2026 is $88.4 billion, up from $22.5 billion in 2021.

Simply put, an augmented reality application will impose visual, auditory, and other sensory information into the world in order to enhance your experience.

In addition to highlighting certain elements of your surroundings, augmented reality can also give consumers experiences that are practical, educational, or amusing.

For example, when you hold up your phone's camera, your GPS app can display arrows on the screen to guide you in the direction of your destination.

Smartphones' cutting-edge computing capabilities and excellent cameras made them the perfect platform for augmented reality. But this technology is not just found in our favorite portable gadgets.

Today's AR innovators are also creating AR eyewear, commonly referred to as "smart glasses." More "hands-free" experiences are offered by them, which can be a highly helpful tool in a number of industries. In recent years, augmented reality (AR) has quickly proven its value in a variety of use cases, from helping surgeons during operations to supporting engineers and mechanics as they use cutting-edge technology in their line of work.

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How does augmented reality work?

AR projections can be viewed on a variety of screens, glasses, smartphones, headsets, and other portable electronics. In order for the computer-generated perceptual information to appear appropriately, it determines the location and orientation of the surrounding objects in the real world.

Depending on the type, AR can collect information about the user's environment via depth sensors, accelerometers, cameras, gyroscopes, and light sensors. They determine the separation between objects, the rate of motion, the direction and angle, and the spatial orientation in general. After that, the data is processed to display the animation in a timely and pertinent manner.

What role does augmented reality play in the metaverse?

A few years ago, hordes of people combed the neighborhood's parks and streets in search of Pokémon. Hysteria reigned during that time. The San Francisco-based company Niantic Labs created the game Pokémon Go, which made use of AR technology in unique ways. You can interact with other players through their avatars in the game, even if they are only a few meters away in person, by overlaying a pokémon on a map that you physically walk on in the "real world," using your phone's camera to show the pokémon against the background of where you are right now.

So, how does this apply to the idea of the metaverse?

As mentioned in our 'Welcome to the Metaverse' article, the metaverse is a world that:

  • Uses a number of the technological advancements made over the past 20 years to fully immerse us in the digital world;
  • Provides a seamless (shared) experience that connects the digital and physical worlds;
  • Enables the formation of virtual communities and economies that are both shared and unique.

Do you now see the relationship between augmented reality and the metaverse?

As individuals become increasingly accustomed to using AR technologies, our phones will influence not only how we interact with the outside world but also how we purchase and communicate with one another.

From small ideas, like an IKEA app that displays furniture alternatives in the space you want to use them in so you can see how they will match your home's design aesthetic, to complex systems — Google employs augmented reality, where you look at someone and the translation appears in the frame of your glasses in real-time, to overcome language barriers.

You may also project directing arrows onto the ground or have them float in the air in front of you when using Google Maps to plan your path. Of course, there is a long way to go before everyone can experience AR. Still, these tools and apps provide a preview of what the future may hold.

Expectations for the future

By the end of the decade, considering the pace of innovation in the augmented reality (AR) industry, AR hardware and software may have superceded phones and desktops as the primary digital entry points into our lives. After all, the dramatic increase in neck and back issues over the past ten years demonstrates that using a phone while walking down the street isn't the most natural way to feed information to the human perceptual system.

Artists, designers, entertainers, and educators will have their potential greatly enhanced thanks to advancements in augmented reality, since they will be able to alter our experience in previously unthinkable ways. And it will feel genuine and real, as long as designers concentrate on delivering consistent perceptual signals to our brains rather than worrying about creating a perfectly realistic world.

The true metaverse will probably be an enhanced layer on top of our world, as opposed to the cartoonish avatar-filled environment that many Metaverse corporations envision. The popularity of virtual worlds for socializing through AR and VR is likely to expand, but the augmented world is best positioned to take over as the main (digital) platform of our lives.

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