What is AR?

There’s no way that you can talk about virtual reality without talking about its closest relative, AR. AR stands for augmented reality and it can be just as much fun as VR. What separates it is one major difference that makes the both of them stand out. It also makes each one ideal for different uses. While one is perfect for transporting you to a completely different time and space, the other is best used when it enhances the time and space that you’re already in. Here are some the major differences and a rundown of what AR actually is.

Augmented Reality

According to Wikipedia, “Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive experience that combines the real world and computer-generated content. The content can span multiple sensory modalities, including visual, auditory, haptic, somatosensory and olfactory. AR can be defined as a system that incorporates three basic features: a combination of real and virtual worlds, real-time interaction, and accurate 3D registration of virtual and real objects.” That basically means that AR overlays virtual information over the real world while VR is a totally virtual environment that’s independent from the real one. AR is also known as mixed reality, which better explains it.

AR Hardware

Since it uses real world data to create its experience, AR is best used with its own hardware. These hardware components for augmented reality are a processor, display, sensors and input devices. Modern mobile computing devices like smartphones and tablet computers contain these elements, which often include a camera and microelectromechanical systems sensors such as an accelerometer, GPS, and solid-state compass, making them suitable AR platforms. The more of the outside world you can incorporate into your AR experience, the better it’s going to be. That makes it perfect for learning applications as well as some gaming platforms.

AR in Learning

In educational settings, AR has been used to complement a standard curriculum. Text, graphics, video, and audio may be superimposed into a student’s real-time environment. Textbooks, flashcards and other educational reading material may contain embedded “markers” or triggers that, when scanned by an AR device, produced supplementary information to the student rendered in a multimedia format. That can allow a student to visit an actual historical site, for example, and learn through AR information provided as he or she explores the area. Its possibilities are really endless as the technology continues to evolve.


On top of that, AR has been used to aid archaeological research. By augmenting archaeological features onto the modern landscape, AR allows archaeologists to formulate possible site configurations from extant structures. Computer generated models of ruins, buildings, landscapes or even ancient people have been recycled into early archaeological AR applications. For example, implementing a system like VITA (Visual Interaction Tool for Archaeology) will allow users to imagine and investigate instant excavation results without leaving their home. Each user can collaborate by mutually navigating, searching, and viewing data. Just think of being able to walk through Roman ruins and see all of their structures standing around you, just as they did 2,000 years ago.


AR in the visual arts allows objects or places to trigger artistic experiences and interpretations of reality. Augmented reality can aid in the progression of visual art in museums by allowing museum visitors to view artwork in galleries in a multidimensional way through their phone screens. The Museum of Modern Art in New York has created an AR exhibit in their art museum showcasing AR features that viewers can see using an app on their smartphone. The museum has developed their personal app, called MoMAR Gallery, that museum guests can download and use in the augmented reality specialized gallery in order to view the museum’s paintings in an enhanced way.

Future of AR

There’s really no end to how far AR will be able to go as it gets developed further. There are no limits to the types of information that you can add to an everyday experience. It’s also being used more and more for simple entertainment. Just think about Snapchat filters that add effects to a person’s face in real time. That’s nothing more than a form of AR working right in front of you. There’s only space for it to grow as it begins to incorporate different types of media around the world. It may soon be a daily part of your life, just like your smartphone or your smart watch. Only time will tell, but the future of AR look pretty bright!