Alternate Reality Or Augmented Reality?
By Alfred Bayle - on 06 Feb 2012, 4:33pm

Ever hear of the term “augmented reality?” If you own a tablet or a smartphone and you frequent the app stores, then you probably have and are probably using an app for it right now. For those still scratching their heads, augmented reality (AR) is a term used when a person’s perception of the world around him/her is enhanced or ‘augmented’ with the addition of computer-generated input. Something like seeing names and notes hovering over an establishment or an animated character dancing on your tabletop.

With Wikitude and a mobile Internet connection, sweeping your smart device around an area will reveal a collection of tags and labels pointing to places that you may or may not find worth noting. (image:

Currently, one of the more popular ways of adapting augmented reality is through travel apps that provide travelers additional information on places of interest through the use of a smart device (smartphones, tablets) and its camera. A user with the appropriate app like Wikitude, need only point their device on a particular place or object and the application will overlay the any necessary information that can be taken out of the Internet

Believe it or not, this three dimensional construct is only visible on the host smartphone and without it, all there is on the table is a piece of printout which acts as an anchor point for the AR app to recreate the buildings. (image:

Though AR is not entirely new, having been conceived back in the 70’s, its adaptation was hampered by the lack of suitable devices to allow the regular populace to benefit from it. Thus, when the Internet and Wi-Fi, together with smartphones and tablets, came about, it made it much easier for developers to play around with AR and develop useful or entertaining applications for everyday use.

Virtual reality gives users an artificially-generated environment to work with, whereas AR simply adds a little ‘color’ to our existing reality. (image:

Some might ask how is AR different from virtual reality. These seemingly similar terms can be seen as such; virtual reality enhances a person’s perspective by replacing the perceived environment with something artificially generated, while augmented reality simply adds otherwise non-existent elements and overlays them on the viewers perspective through a device.

Microchip equipped contact lenses with multiple information overlay integrated into a HUD? Yes please! (image:

Beyond our smart handheld devices, scientists have proceeded to do research on applying AR to contact lenses. The applications are practically endless, one of which is a battlefield heads up display (HUD) for soldiers. Imagine having Terminator-like vision and, given how developers like to customize, Predator-like vision! Engineers can also benefit from this technology as it will allow for faster diagnostics and identification. No more flipping through thick service manuals. Or it can simply guide the user to the nearest shop, restaurant, or bar by simply turning one’s head and following the ‘on-screen’ arrows.

Characters with cybernetic implants from popular anime "Ghost in the Shell" are able to utilize AR to communicate and receive information relevant to their mission - something that soldiers will be able to find most useful. (image:

How far AR will integrate into our daily lives is anyone’s guess as few can deny the benefits from this technology and as we get bombarded by even greater amounts of information as the 21st century rolls on, the more that we’ll rely on tools to remind and keep us up to speed while we go about accomplishing matters of greater import.

Alfred Bayle

Alfred Bayle / Senior Technical Writer

Amateur photographer, self-proclaimed storage junkie, PC gamer and human swiss-knife, Alfred joined the team back in 2007 straight out of college, lured by the smell of fresh new gadgets and mind-boggling computer wizardry. He juggles his time between graphics cards and mobos, photo shoots, Otaku conventions, PC games, collecting anime figures, and sorting files on his hard drives.