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Introduction to Augmented Reality – POC

Augmented Reality is a type of virtual reality that aims to duplicate the world's environment in a computer. An augmented reality system generates a composite view for the user that is a combination of the real scene viewed by the user and a virtual scene generated by the computer that augments the scene with additional information.

The goal of Augmented Reality is to create a system in which the user cannot tell the difference between the real world and the virtual augmentation of it. Today Augmented Reality is used in entertainment, military training, engineering design, robotics, manufacturing and other industries. 

 

A quick example will make the idea clearer. 

 

You're watching a tennis grand-slam on TV and there's a controversial call from one of the line judges. Was that serve in or out? The TV station runs an instant replay with a computer animation showing the exact trajectory of the ball and where it landed - just outside the line. Then a little table comes up on the screen showing how many officially have been in or out for each player and how the figures have changed over the course of the match. 

 

You can see that augmented reality is actually a mixture of real life and virtual reality somewhere in between the two, so it's often referred to as mixed reality. The key point is that the extra information it gives you is highly topical and relevant to what you want to do or know in a certain place and time. 

 

Fulcrum has recently developed an iOS app, based on Augmented Reality, for a leading university in the UK. The app enables students/users to view pre-decided, popular University locations - POI (Point of Interest) in Augmented Reality (on mobile camera), Google Maps, and List mode. On selection of a particular POI, the app shows detailed information along with walking route (path) to navigate to that location. 

 

Features of Augmented Reality – POC 

 

  • The user can see POIs and Google Places as markers on Google Map. 

  • He/She can also choose between languages (English/Welsh). 

  • In AR Mode, the rear camera is on. The device shows only those POIs along with the distance (in miles), where the device is pointing to. 

  • The user can see all POIs in the list view. Search option at the top of the screen allows the user to search by the name of POI. 

  • The user can also see the details of the selected POIs in the more info screen. 

  • The user can get walking direction to the selected POIs from his/her current position. 

 

Considerations for making Augmented Reality - POC 

 

  • Finding a right approach for developing an app. 

  • Functionality added in iOS platform can be replicated in Android platform. 

  • Considered only 3 POI for POC, but in future, the app will have support for any number of POI. 

  • One building can have multiple POI, AR mode should show all POI, along with distance (in miles) from the current user location. 

  • The app should support English and Welsh language. 

  • Google Places API Integration. 

  • Google Maps SDK Integration. 

  • Google Direction API Integration. 

 

Technology and Framework Evaluation 

 

Considering the client requirement, following technologies were evaluated: 

 

  • Unity + Vuforia 


  1.  

Advantages: 

  • Enables building complex AR Apps with little coding. 

  • No need to code separately for Android and IOS. 

  • Apps can be made interactive with graphical UI elements. 

  • Provide faster local detection of targets with the capacity of tracking 10 targets simultaneously. 

  • Efficient tracking in low light conditions and even though the target is covered partially. 

  • Extended tracking capabilities, which enable the app to keep tracking targets and helps maintain a consistent reference for augmentations of the object even when the targets are no longer visible in real-time camera view. 

  • Extensive documentation 

 

         Disadvantages: 

  • New Visitor/Students need to need to be aware of Targets as Tracking is based on Markers and user needs to point the camera in direction of marker to get information. 

  • Integrating GPS and Vuforia Marker tracking is not yet achieved. It would require additional research. 

  • There is a limitation of 100 active targets that applies to Device Databases (i.e. local databases). The Cloud Recognition Service will support up to 1000 images for free accounts and up to 1 million for commercial accounts. 

  • Not more than 10 images can be tracked simultaneously as it impacts tracking. 

  • A graphic designer resource would be required if the animation is in scope. 

 

 

  • Angular JS 2 + Native Script 

 

           Advantages: 

  • Pure native. Developed by Google. 

  • GPS and device direction can be achieved using inbuilt features by accessing device hardware (Accelerometer sensor, Gyroscope sensor, Magnetometer sensor). 

  • Easy to develop. 

  • Support multiple platforms. 

 

           Disadvantages: 

  • Not many tutorials found on the Internet for achieving Augmented Reality. 

  • New technology, therefore not much matured. 

  • In Angular 4.0 which will be launched in March 2017, some of the methods of Angular 2.0 might be deprecated. 

 

  • Native Development (XCode with Swift language) 

 

Advantages: 

  • Since the applications are built utilizing the native platform interface components and adhere to platform UI guidelines, they appear as natural extensions of the platform, which provides a visually seamless user experience. 

  • Apps have direct access to all platform-specific capabilities including embedded hardware, peripherals, and specialized UI libraries or components. 

  • Native apps can access a smartphone's GPS, USB, cameras, and networking hardware. 

  • Native applications have been written with standardized languages and toolkits to achieve the highest possible runtime performance because they are being compiled to run directly on the hardware without intervening abstraction layers. 

  • IOS: Applications has been written within Apple’s proprietary integrated development environment named Xcode, which includes the Swift and Objective-C compilers, 4,000 IOS SDKs, an interface builder, IOS simulator, testing platform and hardware instrumentation. Xcode is open sourceEven many open source components are available for AR mode. 

  • Android: Android Studio is the officially integrated development environment (IDE) for the Android platform which includes Java and C++ compliers, SDKs, Simulator, testing platform and hardware instrumentation. Even it’s open source. Many open source components are available for AR mode. 

 

Disadvantages: 

  • The code cannot be shared between other platforms. 

  • For creating an Android app, the developer has to use some other IDE. 

  • This POC uses external API’s to show map, direction and nearby places on the devices.  

 

Following External API’s were used in the POC. 

 

  • Google Maps SDK: For showing map & POI marker on the device. 

  • Google Direction API: Google Maps Directions API is a service that calculates directions between locations. 

  • Google Places API: This API gets the detailed information about 100 million places across a wide range of categories. 

 

The app will have extendibility with following features in future. 

 

  • Predefined route with multiple POI 

  • Business user to have an option to create/ manage the POI 

  • App to work in offline mode  

  • Navigation inside the building 

 

You have now leveled up by knowing about Augmented Reality. 

 

Happy learning…!! 

 

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