On September 1st 2017, Yamagata group was invited at Microsoft’s Japan partner Conference 2017 in Tokyo. At one of the keynote sessions, Yamagata proudly presented and demonstrated the Augmented Reality (AR) content that was developed for the Hologarage, an AR application for mechanical engineers.

Hololens is Microsoft’s augmented reality viewer that enables the user to see 3D embedded images in the world around him. One of the applications that was built on Hololens technology is the Hologarage, an application for engineers which allows them to see valuable ‘augmented’ information in their real-life working environment, while focusing on the job. Have a look at this demo and you’ll understand immediately.

Yamagata Europe sees great opportunities for content creation with augmented reality. But before we are all getting overexcited, let’s have a closer look at what augmented reality really looks like.

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) uses existing reality and physical objects to trigger computer-generated enhancements over the top of reality, in real time. AR puts computer-generated images over a user’s view of the real world. These images typically take shape as 3D models, videos and information.

Together with virtual reality (VR) which basically offers a fully immersive viewing experience, AR is that other ‘next big thing’ that is going to change the way we generate content and share information. AR works in conjunction with headsets and/or digital devices such as tablets, smartphones and even PCs. The devices themselves contain software, sensors and digital projectors that trigger digital displays onto physical objects.

Where is AR now?

Don’t think AR is that far off. If you have followed the Pokémon Go craze some time ago or if you have used Snapchat lately to send a puppy-face picture of yourself to your friends, you have been using AR.

Pokémon Go

Retailers have already started to investigate AR to improve the overall customer experience. Virtual fitting rooms allow shoppers to virtually try on various clothes and accessories.

Earlier this year, BMW reported to be the first automaker to use AR to sell its cars, with customers using their smartphone screens to view lifelike three-dimensional models superimposed on their view of the real world. In cars, AR can create virtual windscreens, a technology that could change the way our car dashboards, littered with little screens and arrows, are designed today. Here, AR works as a heads-up display, showing all the necessary road information on your windscreen, enabling the driver to focus on the road in front of him, instead of on the road signs on the side of the road.  

Also in the professional and industrial world, AR offers many practical applications. In manufacturing assembly lines, AR can support the operator to follow a precise sequence of actions, by giving him real-time instructions in his field of view. This allows the operator to focus on the task without having to check another workstation or guide for instructions. In addition to helping with the assembly of manufactured products, AR can be used to assist in the maintenance of manufacturing equipment. Mitsubishi Electric has been developing maintenance-support technology using AR based on a 3D model that enables users to confirm the order of inspection on an AR display and then enter inspection results with their voice.

Augmented Reality

Creating content for AR

It’s no wonder that content creators have high expectations about the possibilities of AR. In an online world where the content floodgates are open 24/7, AR might just be the thing they need to break through the clutter. But for AR novices, finding the right AR content authoring platform can be daunting.

We already mentioned the Microsoft Hololens in the beginning of this post. The Apple ARKit is another solution for developers to create AR experiences, be it only for iPhone and iPad. But every so often, and at an increased pace, new AR software and apps are popping up that are very affordable or even free. Apps like Blippar or Layar allow content creators to combine elements of offline and online advertising and make them interactive. With Zapworks Studio, you can bring a poster to life with AR powered video or create a fully 3D interactive, multi-scene AR experience. ARToolKit is an open-source computer tracking library for creation of strong augmented reality applications that overlay virtual imagery on the real world.

Hololens

Your next AR project?

Your first AR project might not be around the corner yet. It’s still a thing for very early adopters and the technology may need to be further democratized. But remember early, clumsy internet? It used to be a mere digital mirror of our static, paper-based content. But as content authoring tools for graphics and web design were improving, the web developed into a more exciting, interactive environment. Now, anyone can make a website, edit photos or even develop professional looking videos.

The same is probably going to happen with AR. Once we can get our hands on AR apps that are so seamless and user-friendly that they become impossible to ignore, nothing will stop AR from entering our physical, virtual or mixed reality lives.