Augmented Reality Technology
Copyright 2022, Faulkner Information Services. All
Publication Date: 2212
Report Type: TUTORIAL
The basic concept of augmented reality is to superimpose graphics, audio,
video, and other “sensory enhancements” or interactive objects over a
real-world environment, in real time, thus presenting an “augmented” or
enhanced view of one’s surroundings. This technology is being applied to
things as simple as smartphone navigation and entertainment apps and to
devices as complex as the Microsoft HoloLens. This report will examine the
concept of augmented reality, its current uses, and where it is headed in
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Football fans are familiar with the computerized line on the field to
indicate how far a team must penetrate their opponent’s territory to gain
a first down. But they may not be aware that this was one of the earliest
widespread uses of augmented reality technology.
The basic concept of augmented reality (AR) is to superimpose graphics,
audio, video, and other “sensory enhancements” or interactive objects over
a real-world environment, in real time, thus presenting an enhanced view
of that environment. There are AR applications, for example, that enable
cell phone users to employ their phone’s camera and GPS capabilities to
gather intelligence about the surrounding area such as the location of
stores and restaurants and then overlay that onto a live image of their
surroundings as seen by the device’s camera.
The term “augmented reality” was coined in 1990 by Thomas Caudell, an
employee at Boeing Computer Services Research. He was trying to describe
how the head-mounted displays that electricians wore when assembling
wiring harnesses worked.1
Today, the most common interface through which people experience
augmented reality is their smartphone. This device includes all of the
necessary technology to achieve augmented reality, including a camera to
capture images of the real world, sensors to detect the phone’s
orientation in space, and a display to reveal its augmented reality
Although this is the case today, many believe that the augmented reality
currently available through smartphones is just the tip of the iceberg,
with the true influx of augmented reality lying in the future rise of
augmented reality glasses or headsets. In fact, three of the largest tech
companies in the world have either already released or are rumored to be
working on an augmented reality headset of their own. In Google’s case,
this was the now-discontinued Google Glass, while Microsoft continues to
produce its HoloLens “mixed reality” headset line. Apple, for its part,
has been integrating AR into its devices for years, and is expected to
produce a mixed reality headset in 2023.2
Figure 1. Charting Your Course with an Augmented Reality
The audience for AR technology is widely varied, and includes groups such
Gamers, one of the first
groups to adopt augmented reality.
Smartphone owners, who are
looking to enhance their knowledge of real-world locales.
Military professionals, who
view AR as a vehicle for enhancing a soldier’s war-fighting capabilities.
Museums operators, who use
AR-generated information to improve the gallery experience for patrons.
Educators, who utilize AR to
create a learning environment that appeals to tech-savvy students, and
allows trainees to physically interact with virtualized objects.
Marketers, who see AR as a
window into the habits and propensities of customers and prospective
Medical practitioners, who
employ AR to better understand a patient’s anatomy and physical condition
by overlaying additional information into real-world diagnostic and
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Any description of augmented reality must begin with what it is not – it
is not virtual reality. A virtual reality system places a subject in
a completely artificial, software-generated environment. Augmented reality
is designed to enhance a subject’s experience in a real-world environment
by overlaying within their field of vision information about the
surroundings. Such supplemental information may consist of graphics
(two-dimensional or three-dimensional), audio, video, or even interactive
According to Total Immersion, now defunct, there are four different types
of AR technology, each distinguished by the method in which environmental
data is collected and processed.
1. Black & White Fiducial Markers – This type
utilizes two-dimensional markers placed on objects of interest that enable
AR systems to recognize and report on the objects.
2. Marker-Less Tracking – As the term implies,
marker-less tracking systems enable the tracking and recognition of
objects, faces, forms of movement, etc. without using specially-placed
markers. It is, therefore, more versatile and powerful than
marker-based tracking and functions in unknown environments. However, its
reliance on computer vision also makes it more prone to visual
interference and malfunctions due to variations in the physical world.
3. Sensor-Based Technology – Another type of AR
features sensor tags, often used in environments where marker-less
tracking applications may be compromised, as in low light environments, or
in places suffering from the aforementioned visual interference of some
type. These tags send a signal to an AR receiver and are able to
“curate” information pertinent to a particular individual.
4. GPS & Compass Technology – Mainly found on
smartphones and tablets, this AR technology takes advantage of the
devices’ GPS and compass features – along with high-speed wireless
Internet access – to provide users with relevant Web-based content.
Although this technology could also be employed in head-mounted AR units,
more accurate tracking methods, such as those above, are typically
available to models of that type.
The process of providing augmented reality involves three basic steps:
- Recognition of an image, object, or person, particularly their face
- Real time spatial location of this image, object, or person, as well
as its location in relation to the device user.
- Superimposition of a media source (text, 2D, 3D, video, interactive
object, etc.) into the user’s field of view.
Today, most commercial AR applications are smartphone- or tablet-based,
and are activated by pointing the device’s camera at the scene with which
the user wishes to interact. This can result in information being overlaid
on the real world, such as a restaurant’s menu floating over their
storefront, road names appearing at an intersection, or any information
one could think of related to real world location being made available
when the user physically approaches that spot. It can also be used to
create static and interactive scenarios in which virtual entities are
placed within the real world for entertainment purposes. This latter use
includes tasks such as taking AR photographs with virtual objects included
in them, taking AR videos with virtual characters or objects moving in
them, or playing games with AR components seemingly moving around in the
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While the appetite for augmented reality dates back a decade or more, the
“reality” of augmented reality has been slow to materialize as the
marriage of technology with acceptable delivery mechanisms has been hard
to achieve. Take the ill-fated Google Glass, for example.
But the persistence of tech powerhouses like Google, Microsoft, Apple,
and others is beginning to prevail.
As projected by Grand View Research, the global augmented reality market,
valued at $38.56 billion in 2022, should reach $597.54 billion in 2030,
expanding at a truly remarkable compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 40.9
percent during the 2022-2030 forecast period.
As GVR explains, “The proliferation of handheld devices, such as
smartphones and smart glasses, and the subsequent increase in the adoption
of mobile AR technology to provide a more immersive experience are
expected to contribute to the growth of the market.”
In terms of enterprise applications:
“The industrial & manufacturing segment
accounted for the largest revenue share [24.3 percent] in 2021 and is
expected to continue dominating the market in the forecast period.
“The healthcare segment is expected to emerge
as the fastest-growing segment in the forecast period. AR technology is
increasingly being implemented in medical training, surgical
visualization, and vein visualization.”
Some of the prominent players in the AR space are:
- Infinity Augmented Reality
- Magic Leap
- Wikitude GmbH3
As augmented reality tools emerge and mature, the number and diversity of
AR use cases is expanding, with analyst Jim Himes highlighting the
following five applications:
- Remote Expert Assistance – “AR lets experts be in
more than one place at a time. If a field technician in a remote
location gets stuck while troubleshooting some equipment, they can use
an enterprise AR solution to instantly connect with a subject-matter
- Believe It When You See It – “Augmented reality
applications … provide marketing teams with a valuable new tool to add
to their tool belts. Whether itâ€™s in a B2B or B2C context, being able
to actually show a customer a product they can visualize in their space
or interact with is a big advantage.”
- Learning and Development (L&D) – “[The]
technology lets organizations train employees from anywhere. AR lets
operators gain experience on patients, machinery, and equipment in a
completely risk-free environment.”
- Complex Manufacturing – “AR is already transforming
manufacturing. It’s one of the key technologies for Industry 4.0.
Operators and engineers use AR glasses on the plant floor to aid
troubleshooting, reliably manage configurations and build complex
- Increased Productivity – One major use case is AR
for customer support. For instance, AR makes a help desk much more
effective. Customer service agents can see what the customer sees, also
called see-what-I-see (SWIS).”4
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In a poll of 100 enterprise-level tech executives conducted by Pulse and
CGS during October 2020, nearly half of the respondents indicated that the
key benefits of augmented reality are:
- Reduced travel time – 49 percent
- Increased employee productivity – 49 percent
- Extended expert reach – 48 percent
- Accelerated training – 48 percent
Other benefits mentioned were:
- Reduced number of errors – 38 percent
- Heightened cost savings – 36 percent
- Improved staff safety – 18 percent
- Remote connectivity/collaboration – 16 percent
- Boosted first-time fix rates/reduced repeat visits – 15 percent
- Improved customer satisfaction – 12 percent
- Provide new ways to sell and demo products – 10 percent
In terms of industry-specific preferences:
- Manufacturing executives valued acceleration of training (64 percent)
and increased productivity (50 percent) as principal AR advantages.
- Healthcare executives cited error reduction (78 percent) and increased
cost savings (67 percent).5
In simplest terms, augmented reality promises to continue enhancing
employee efficiency and effectiveness, leading, inevitably, to enhanced
enterprise productivity and profitability.
Manufacturing & Healthcare
While many AR applications are consumer-focused, two industries,
manufacturing and healthcare, are positioned to derive enormous benefits
from augmented reality.
As analyst Andrew Makarov observes, in the manufacturing sector:
- “Worker training can be enhanced with AR experiences powered by CAD
- “AR can … assist technicians through routine maintenance processes.
- “AR applications can highlight elements of devices being worked on to
guide technicians through the process at hand.
- “AR can help give workers more contextual information about objects in
a factory. By highlighting an object with a mobile device, a worker can
learn more about it and if any action, such as maintenance, needs to be
- “AR [offers] a promise for remote troubleshooting. Remote support
agents can place virtual markers on the screen for workers to follow on
the other end of the call.”
In the healthcare arena:
- “[AR] can provide information to [surgeons] while allowing them to use
both of their hands during [a] procedure.
- “[AR] features such as drawing and annotating on the 3D screen can
make communication between doctors and patients much easier and clearer.
- “[Combined] with machine learning algorithms, AR technology can become
an efficient option for disease detection.”6
“The metaverse,” as envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg and others, will likely
serve as an AR accelerant. In announcing the transition from Facebook to
Meta, the company said: “Meta builds technologies that help people
connect, find communities, and grow businesses. When Facebook launched in
2004, it changed the way people connect. Apps like Messenger, Instagram,
and WhatsApp further empowered billions around the world. Now, Meta
is moving beyond 2D screens toward immersive experiences like augmented
and virtual reality to help build the next evolution in social
Easy access to technology is a key factor in enabling social and
financial mobility. That’s why, for example, the Biden Administration’s
Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act allocates $65 billion to expanding
broadband internet availability. Technologies like the internet and AR,
when made fully and freely available, provide all citizens with the
opportunity to learn more and earn more, as well as to participate more in
Consequently, as augmented reality goes mainstream, business and
government leaders should help ensure the technology is available to all
people, not just the privileged few. Just like internet access should be a
right, access to AR for education, job training, and other essential
activities should be assured.
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Prepare for the Challenges of Augmented Reality
While the potential rewards for augmenting enterprise
infrastructure with augmented reality systems and services are
substantial, so too are the challenges. According to analyst Jessica
Baron, these challenges, while real, are surmountable. Consider:
- Implementation costs – Constructing a custom AR app
can be expensive, but customizing an existing app can reduce the price
- Skills gap – Although enterprise staff will require
AR training, AR itself, ironically, is a proven technology for
“upskilling” a workforce. AR can be leveraged to teach AR.
- Competing priorities – Through proper education,
enterprise executives can come to appreciate the value of investing in
AR, even over other projects.
- Cybersecurity and privacy – Protecting enterprise
information and information systems is always a concern. In the case of
AR, this concern can be ameliorated with proper attention to standard
cybersecurity and privacy measures.
- AR perceptions – AR is often viewed as a “toy” or
“gimmick”. Citing existing business use cases can help reverse any
Invest in a AR Software Development Kit
AR application development is a specialized form of software development.
To achieve the best results, enterprise software development shops should
invest in an AR software development kit (SDK).
One of the best, according to analyst Oleksandr Gerasymov is ARToolKit.
Supporting the Linux, Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android platforms,
“ARToolKit is one of the first solutions used for developing augmented
reality apps for mobile devices. [An open-source library, it] can help
detect real camera position and orientation using markers or 3D objects in
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