Augmented Reality (AR) is an interactive experience of a real-world environment where objects in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated information (CGI), sometimes through multiple sensory modalities, like auditory, haptic, visual, somatosensory, and olfactory. Overall, AR can be briefly described as a system with these three main features: a combination of real and virtual environments, accurate 3D integration of real and virtual objects, and real-time interactions.

AR was primarily created to provide the user with a real-time combination of real and digital worlds by integrating immersive sensations perceived as natural parts of the environment. Augmented reality is often related to computer-mediated reality and mixed reality or MR.

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How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Augmented reality nowadays is seen throughout various devices, like tablets and smartphones. Technologies that provide AR mainly require hardware components, including processors, display and input devices, and sensors.

For instance, the latest smartphones have sensors, a global positioning system (GPS), accelerometers, cameras, and solid-state compasses. A combination of at least two of these features—GPS and a compass—can detect the device’s real-time location and device orientation.

In the military, AR programs such as machine vision, gesture, and object recognition are used for training. It’s important to know that these and other AR programs need devices with high processing power to run constantly. Otherwise, it needs to be used with a different computer or machine.

Augmented reality applications are also used in the business sector. For instance, the SaaS platform Augment allows users to place virtual objects in the real world. It’s used by businesses to preview their products in a natural environment, allowing them to demo products from a consumer’s perspective.

Known companies such as Lowe’s and Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) use this technology to give consumers an idea of how their products would look in a home via 3D models.

Difference Between Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

One distinct difference between augmented reality versus virtual reality is that augmented reality changes the user’s perception of a real-world environment, whereas virtual reality changes a user’s real-world perspective with a virtually-rendered one.

VR is best experienced using head-mounted displays (HMDs) that show simulated audio and video information. AR, on the other hand, uses less complicated devices, which include glasses, phones, projections, and head-up displays (HUDs).

Typical Applications of Augmented Reality

Urban Design and Planning

AR is used in creating maps, data feeds, and buildings projected onto tabletops for presentations by urban planning professionals, architects, and related professions. Outdoor AR technologies can provide superimposed, real-world designs and plans that can be compared to in-situ designs.


Augmented reality can be utilized to overlay a route to a user’s destination over a live perspective of a road. It can also provide information about local businesses around the user’s current location.


AR is used for product previews, including projections of a product’s contents and a digital view of items through a kiosk or catalog. Innovations such as virtual dressing rooms, AR games, and the AR trigger are used by businesses and schools to provide promotional content to their consumers.