augmented reality

6 min to read

What is augmented reality and how can you use it?

Whether you are into catching Pokémons, putting Snapchat filters on your face or seeing how a piece of IKEA furniture will fit in your home, augmented reality is here to stay. AR is a growing technology trend, but what is it really and how can you use it? Here is a brief history of augmented reality and how it can enhance remote support guidance.


What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that lets you see the real-life environment with a digital augmentation overlay of images, sounds, or text, that reinforces your reality. This is not to be confused with virtual reality (VR), where you “enter” a new reality, for instance an underwater or space reality, by wearing ​​a VR headset.

One of the greatest examples of AR technology is the popular mobile app Pokémon Go, which allows players to locate and capture Pokémon characters that appear in the real world. In addition to entertainment, augmented reality is also used in other areas, such as marketing, fashion, tourism, and retail. 

iPhone 7 held in one hand showing its screen with Pokemon Go ApplicationOverall, the use of AR is growing as mobile devices that are powerful enough to handle AR software become more accessible around the world. However, AR is not a new invention. In fact, the first AR technology was developed back in 1968, when the Harvard computer scientist Ivan Sutherland created an AR head-mounted display system

Following in Surtherland’s footsteps, lab universities, companies, and national agencies developed AR for wearables and digital displays. But it was not until 2008 that the first commercial AR application was created by German agencies in Munich. They designed a printed magazine ad for a BMW Mini car. When held in front of a computer’s camera, the user was able to control the car on the screen simply by manipulating the magazine ad. 

Since then, one of the most successful uses of AR for commercial purposes has been the ability to try on products, such as clothes, jewelry, and even make-up, without having to leave your house. In addition, many tourism apps use AR technology to bring the past to life at historical sites. For example, at Pompeii in Italy, AR can project views of ancient civilizations over today’s ruins. Other examples include neurosurgeons using an AR projection of a 3D brain to aid them in surgeries and airport ground crews wearing AR glasses to see information about cargo containers. Needless to say, the potential of augmented reality is endless. 

Ancient walls in Pompeii with volcano Vesuvius in the background

AR enables efficient remote support 

At XMReality, we have embraced augmented reality from the beginning. Founded in 2007 by researchers from the Swedish Defense Research Agency, our first project was to help bomb disposal experts defuse landmines in the field. For six years, we performed advanced contract research in AR for the Swedish Defense Materiel Administration and BAE Systems. 

Though we continue to work and innovate in the defense sector, we expanded to help other industries with our remote support solution XMReality Remote Guidance. In remote support calls, you can use the AR feature Hands Overlay to guide your counterpart by overlaying your hand gestures on top of real time video. 

Helpdesk-1This is especially useful when you need to show someone how to turn a screw, explain what cord goes where, or provide other instructions where technical support is needed. And it comes in handy when you need both your hands to give instructions or guide someone through complex tasks.

The user-friendly software and AR technology enables you to improve operational efficiency and quality for processes like audits, maintenance, service, repair, training, and support at production sites, packaging, energy grids or properties. Find more information about how to use remote support in different industries here

Don’t tell it, show it with AR

In a rapidly growing ​​AR marketplace, we always continue to develop the use of AR technology. To enhance the Hands Overlay experience, we have introduced additional hardware: The Pointpad.   

Together with the Hands Overlay, the Pointpad is useful for experts in a helpdesk setup who is using XMReality Remote Guidance from a desktop computer or support stations. This allows you to enhance hand gestures for clear instructions during everyday calls.  

XMReality_16sept_2021_0164_beskurenImagine that you are a technician dealing with electricity sub-stations, which include extremely complex industrial installations with myriad switch-gear, screens, and interfaces. When you are restricted to voice only support, you have to rely on the customer to explain what they see in front of them, and you must give them support while acting blind.

By using XMReality and its' AR technology, you can both see exactly what the customer sees but also guide their hands with your own.  This way you don't have to trust the customer to explain everything just right, and you don't need to keep in mind every detail that the customer has said, since you can continuously see it while you and the customer are troubleshooting together. You also don't need to worry about language barriers and having to say every instruction in the most easily-understood way, since you will use your hands to show the customer what to do with their own. The reduced risk for misunderstandings combined with faster trouble resolution is a great way to achieve happier customers and more efficient processes. Read more about how you can turn any computer into a powerful guide station.


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