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The 4 Types of Augmented Reality (And Who's Using Them)

4 Types of Augmented Reality
(Image is courtesy of Dalton White/YouTube, CC BY)

Remember when Pokemon Go was the game to play? The popularity of that app put AR (short for Augmented Reality) on the map. To get a better idea of how it works and who else is doing cool things with this kind of technology, we’re breaking down the four main types of AR.

Marker Based AR

This type of AR needs two things -- a camera and some type of visual marker, which can be a QR code or 2D code. The application running this kind of augmented reality uses the camera to tell the difference between the real world and the digital marker. When it does come to that digital marker, the app will show you some cool digital feature. Since there’s such limited processing involved, it’s one of the most common types of AR out there. As a matter of fact, you use it all the time. All of those filters you use on Instagram and Snapchat run on Marker Based AR. And household brands are getting in on this kind of AR tech - like Pizza Hut. They ran a campaign that had their customers use the Oogle app to scan their pizza boxes to unlock cool trivia games to play with their family.

Speaking of filters, check out these 8 brands creating their own Instagram Story AR Filters

Markerless AR

Instead of using a pre-coded marker, this type of AR uses your location to display digital content. The application uses pre-existing hardware to determine where you are or how fast you’re moving (think of your cell phone’s GPS system) in order to bring the digital world into real life.

Google and Apple have been all over this kind of AR, developing the rivaling applications ARCore and ARKit. They both use motion tracking and depth-sensing cameras to create the most life-like 3D models that can interact with the world around you.

Projection Based AR

What if you and your friends could actually reach out and touch the video game you’re playing? That can be made possible with Projection Based AR. Instead of relying on your smartphone to see the virtual and real worlds come together, you can interact with the AR projection in real time. How does it work? These AR systems use visible light and depth cameras to project a digital image onto real-life objects, like a cool overlay or Snapchat filter, that you can interact with it. Microsoft Kinect for Xbox and Lightform are just a few projector based AR systems out today. Some companies take this type of augmented reality a step further, like the Digital Nature Group. They use crazy fast lasers, mirrors, and cameras to create the kind of interactive holograms you see in sci-fi movies.

Superimposition Based Augmented Reality

In this type of augmented reality technology, real-life objects are digitally replaced on the app running the program, like your smartphone. Brands like Ikea use this type of AR to really get their customers interacting with their brand. The Ikea Place app lets you see how the furniture in their online catalog will actually look inside your house. And you already know Google is using this kind of AR, with their Translate App. It can not only translate a foreign sign you’re looking at through your camera, but overlay that translation on that very sign.

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