The promise of augmented reality

SCIENCE fiction both predicts the future and influences the scientists and technologists who work to bring that future about. Mobile phones, to take a famous example, are essentially real-life versions of the hand-held communicators wielded by Captain Kirk and his crewmates in the original series of “Star Trek”. The clamshell models of the mid-2000s even take design cues directly from those fictional devices.

If companies ranging from giants like Microsoft and Google to newcomers like Magic Leap and Meta have their way, the next thing to leap from fiction to fact will be augmented reality (AR). AR is a sci-fi staple, from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s heads-up display in the “Terminator” films to the holographic computer screens that Tom Cruise slings around as a futuristic policeman in “Minority Report”.

AR is a close cousin to virtual reality (VR). There is, though, a crucial difference between them: the near-opposite meanings they ascribe to the term “reality”. VR aims to drop users into a convincing, but artificial, world. AR, by contrast, supplements the real world by laying useful or entertaining computer-generated data over…Continue reading

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