How AR works

Augmented reality can be delivered in a variety of formats, including within smartphones, tablets and glasses. AR delivered through contact lenses is also being developed. The technology requires hardware components, such as a processor, sensors, a display and input devices. Mobile devices already typically have this hardware available, with sensors including cameras, accelerometers, Global Positioning System (GPS) and solid-state compasses. This helps make AR more accessible to the everyday user. A GPS is used to pinpoint the user’s location, and its compass is used to detect device orientation, for example.


Screencaptures of AR experiences

Sophisticated AR programs used by the military for training can also include machine vision, object recognition and gesture recognition. AR can be computationally intensive, so if a device lacks processing power, data processing can be offloaded to a different machine.

Augmented reality apps are written in special 3D programs that enable developers to tie animation or contextual digital information in the computer program to an augmented reality marker in the real world. When a computing device’s AR app or browser plugin receives digital information from a known marker, it begins to execute the marker’s code and layer the correct image or images.