Written by Jason Zammit and Julian Calleja
Applicability and Use Cases of Augmented Reality by Jason Zammit
Augmented Reality – AR is a technology that blends a real-life environment with computer generated information such as data, images, interactive models or text.Dating back to its first conception in the 1960s the technology emerged throughout the years and today is on the forefront in many industries such as the health sector, visual arts, education and training and many more, where one can enjoy, learn and explore a vast range of applications from the very comfort of a smart phone or tablet device.
Here, we would like to share some typical examples and use cases of Augmented reality. In visual arts, museums allow visitors to view artworks in a multi-dimensional way through their mobile screens providing an interactive technological experience. The Sacra Infermeria today known as the Mediterranean Conference Centre in Valletta, implemented an augmented reality application where visitors can relive the times when the historic site was used as Malta’s first Hospital. The technology used was ‘marker-less AR’ that reads data and provides information and animation on your mobile device. The same concept was also implemented to the Gozo’s azure window where an application was created to bring back the site to its former glory virtually. In the building industry, architects and designers use ‘marker-based AR’ to project the planned building site in two and three dimension by using image recognition detecting the building design in front of a camera and providing information on your mobile screen. The same concept is used in education, archaeology, science and technology.
In health Care, AR applications were implemented for the purposes of planning, practice and training of surgical procedures. A device called ‘AR glasses’ allows the usage of holograms in the real environment and facilitate the navigation and viewing of anatomy, and surgical procedures. Medical students accelerate the learning process and perceive holographic objects in multi-dimensional images. The same technology is also being applied in the automobile and engineering industries where newly introduced manufacturing practices are implemented virtually via AR.
AR works wonders; a historical Donuimun Gate, that was one of the Four Great Gates in the City Wall of Seoul has now come back to life after it was destroyed in 1915 during the Japanese colonial period. Using Superimposition-based AR, one can experience the digitally restored gate using a mobile app, which displays the monument in different lights on different times of the day, offering the visitors to see again the gate in its original glory.
Implementing the AR experience at MITA’s Emerging Technologies Lab – by Julian Calleja MITA student
As a student in my final year reading for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Multimedia Software Development, I worked on a project where an Augmented reality experience was implemented within the Lab. The Lab aims to facilitate students, employees and government entities to explore and try out various technologies. They are encouraged to come up with their own personal ideas and create them through the ‘My Lab idea’.
The AR Lab experience project is an Augmented Reality marker-based application which uses specific locations within the lab. These are tied to the different types of emerging technologies available in the Lab. These technologies are used as reference points for the markers. Upon identifying a marker, a video showcasing the respective emerging technology is played. Various challenges presented themselves with this approach, one of which was trying to use real life area as makers. The reason for the problem is the makers needed to be indistinguishable from one another. In order to fix the above mentioned issue, I used well-lit quality images, whilst trying to use placeholder/QR code images for the small sections. Furthermore, the reason why the application was created using marker-based technology instead of marker-less, was so that the user will have a more interactive process whilst traversing through the various sections of the Lab. AR Lab experience was built using Unity (A game engine) and Vuforia (Augmented Reality Software Development Kit). Since prior knowledge on both these platforms was present, I could better solve the challenges that arose whilst implementing this application. The main objective of the application was to give users a more interactive introductory session with these technologies as well as showcasing how augmented reality can be implemented in a business space.
I highly recommend any student, who is considering using emerging technologies for their thesis to get in contact with the Lab. As during my placement at the MITA Lab, I learnt various things, for example with the above mentioned application, I managed to realise the broader use cases of AR. Additionally, since the Lab offers access to said emerging technologies, I was able to get hands on experience with technologies such as the HoloLens (AR headset), VR headset as well as a 3D printer.
AR is a technology that blends a real-life environment with computer generated information such as data, images, interactive models or text.