Expanded reality

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Wikitude augmented reality app on a smartphone

Under augmented reality (also English augmented reality [ ɔːɡmɛntɪd ɹiælɪti ] shortly AR [ eɪɑː ]) is the computer-based extension of reality perception. This information can appeal to all human sensory modalities . Often, however, augmented reality is only understood to mean the visual representation of information, i.e. the addition of images or videos with computer-generated additional information or virtual objects by means of fading in / overlay. For soccer broadcasts, augmented reality is, for example, showing distances for free kicks using a circle or a line.

Definition and demarcation

Reality-virtuality continuum according to Milgram

In reality-Virtua Litäts continuum (by Paul Milgram et al., 1994), the augmented reality ( augmented reality , AR) and advanced virtual reality ( augmented virtuality ) part of the so-called mixed reality ( mixed reality ). While the term augmented virtuality is rarely used by experts, augmented reality and mixed reality , and rarely enhanced reality , are mostly used synonymously . In contrast to virtual reality , in which the user is completely immersed in a virtual world, the display of additional information is in the foreground in augmented reality. For the visual modality, this leads to much tougher requirements for position determination ( tracking ) and calibration.

An AR system (ARS for short) is the system of technical components that are necessary to set up an augmented reality application: cameras, tracking devices, support software, etc.

The literature mostly uses Azuma's definition of augmented reality:

  • The virtual reality and the reality are combined with each other (partly superimposed).
  • Real-time interactivity.
  • Real and virtual objects relate to each other in three dimensions.

This definition has two disadvantages:

  • it is based solely on technical features,
  • it is limited to only one aspect of AR.

Other works define AR as an expansion of human sensory perception through sensors of environmental properties that humans cannot perceive themselves: radar, infrared, distance images, etc.


Augmented reality could be used in practically all areas of everyday life. Fitters could have the next work step displayed directly in their field of vision; Soldiers or disaster relief workers could have targets and danger zones displayed in the field and designers could work on the same three-dimensional model with colleagues who were actually and virtually present. As technology advances, futuristic application scenarios can be developed: Electronic devices that only exist virtually but react to real touch, artificial sensory enhancements such as the "X-ray view" and computer games in open terrain.

Automatic text recognition, translation and projection in the Word Lens app

An example of an AR application are the virtual brands displayed in real time during sports broadcasts: Different distances of the competitors during ski jumping, long throwing, etc. (Note that this example is often not an augmented reality application as defined above, because sometimes the interactive element missing.)

Google was working on a product (discontinued in 2015) that was launched in 2012 under the name Google Glass . It was a pair of glasses with a microdisplay and camera, which should also be operated via voice input. One of the functions of the device was, for example, that the wearer of the glasses transmits information about his surroundings to the Internet and, for his part, receives corresponding information, for example in the form of navigation instructions, from the Internet. Furthermore, the familiar options of smartphones and video conferencing should also be available.

Assistance with complex tasks, v. a. in construction, maintenance and medicine

Help with complex tasks can be provided by displaying additional information. For example, the parts of a device are "labeled" for a mechanic and he is given work instructions. In medicine, augmented reality can be used to enable the representation of invisible elements. For example, this can be done intraoperatively, as an "X-ray view" for the surgeon, based on previous tomography or current image data from ultrasound devices or open magnetic resonance imaging.

Industrial applications

Navigation information on the smartphone

With augmented reality, digital planning data can be efficiently compared with existing real geometries. The technology also enables the broad use of digital validation methods when combining digital data with real prototypes and designs.


Photogrammetric replica of a monument

Augmented reality can basically be navigation in buildings (for the maintenance of industrial plants), in the open (for the military or disaster management), in the car (projection of navigation instructions on the windshield so that, for example, turning instructions appear on the roadway) or in the aircraft ( head Up displays in combat aircraft are one of the earliest AR applications ever) to be used.

Digital cameras

Live view of a photographic recording with marking of the recognized and focused faces

In digital cameras with live view viewfinders and screens, information calculated on the subject can also be displayed, for example for recognized faces , for sharp edges or for incorrectly exposed image areas . Grid lines or electronic spirit levels can be displayed to align image or motif edges .


10.000 Moving Cities, Marc Lee , Augmented Reality Multiplayer Game, Art Installation

AR in the visual arts enables objects or places to trigger artistic multidimensional experiences and interpretations of reality.

The unfinished monument by artist Benno Elkan was virtually reconstructed and exhibited in the Museum for Art and Cultural History Dortmund . The virtual monument can be viewed from all sides using a smartphone app.

Military and disaster management

Systems ARC4 (USA)

In the military and disaster management sector, portable systems can be used to indicate friends and foes or sources of fire, for example.

Hydrology, ecology, geology

Systems can be used for prospecting , display and interactive analysis of maps and terrain features, for example to exploit mineral resources.


Augmented reality is also suitable for the visualization of architecture. Destroyed historical buildings or future architectural projects can be displayed.


Augmented reality can also be used for flight and driving simulators.

Cooperation between distributed teams

The cooperation of locally distributed teams can be facilitated. For example through video conferences with real and virtual participants ( see also: Telepresence ). But it also supports joint work on simulated 3D models.

Entertainment and games

AR tower defense game

An expansion in museums and exhibitions through virtual objects gives visitors access to more information. Augmented reality can also be used in the entertainment industry, for example in games (ARQuake, EyePet (for PS3)). In 2019, games were the most common use case for augmented reality: 48 percent of those who used augmented reality did so for AR games. A popular example is the game Ingress , developed by Niantic and Google and released in 2012.

With the EW application Pokémon Go , the developers Niantic and Nintendo reached a wide audience in the summer of 2016. In 2019, Niantic also released the AR game Harry Potter: Wizards Unite , which revolves around the Harry Potter universe. AR games fall into the following sub-genres:

  • Location-based game : The course of the game is influenced by the change with the geographic position of the player. Examples: Niantic games like Pokemon Go, Ingress, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
  • Interacting with the live view mode of a camera.
    • To pick up or scan objects that are then used in the game. (Input for the game)
    • In the other variant, the camera image is expanded with play elements. (Projection of the game on the camera image) For example, the player should catch or fight computer opponents placed on the screen, collect objects that are in the camera image or expand the camera image with new objects in which z. B. virtual objects can be placed on a selected flat area. The live view mode can also be used as a navigation aid and game bar. Examples: Minecraft Earth or The Sims Free Game
  • Alternate Reality Game : Cross-media narrative structure that deliberately blurs the line between fictional events and real experiences.
  • Toys-to-life : Toys and action figures are used in connection with a computer game or activate special functions in the game.
  • Holographic game : game that can be projected three-dimensionally in the form of a hologram onto a surface in space. Although there is still no game for the private market, Microsoft presented a prototype of a holographic version of Minecraft at the presentation for the Microsoft HoloLens AR glasses .


Companies are increasingly relying on AR components in their advertising in order to offer customers added value. For example, the furniture store chain IKEA published a catalog in 2013 in which selected pieces of furniture could be scanned in using a smartphone app and projected virtually anywhere in the apartment.

Bicycles, shoes, wheelchairs and other products from all industries can also be converted into 3D visualizations and integrated into online shops using the so-called 3D Product Viewer . The realistic representation of the products in 3D enables viewing from all sides. The customer gets a feel for the original size, color and texture. This influences their purchase decision, increases satisfaction with the product and thus reduces the number of returns and additional logistical effort. The latest developments in AR technology have even made it possible to call up AR content in print products . Videos, links , commercials and other content can be embedded in print media with the help of mobile apps and accessed on smartphones. Modern forms of advertising can thus also find a place in conventional media and prevent these from becoming extinct.

Also Virtual fairs and hybrid events use both augmented reality, virtual reality and 3D virtual event experience to live to create interaction, as if the visitor on the spot.


The liveliness of augmented reality technology is used in the publishing industry to make print media of all kinds more interesting and appealing for readers. Augmented Reality gives companies, cultural organizers, publishers and many other industries an interactive advertising platform with a large reach. Classic reading is thus adapted to the advanced digitization of our time and appeals to younger and more tech-savvy generations. The integration of the 3D objects takes place via special platforms and apps that publishers can operate independently to determine the trigger (marker). at which the AR object should appear when reading. The reader can then point his mobile smartphone at the printed product, which recognizes the marker and shows the AR content on the display. This impressive technique is also used by book publishers to e.g. B. to bring children's books to life or to illustrate medical literature with realistic illustrations.  


Augmented reality also has great potential in the field of learning. There is the possibility of projecting digital layers onto real worlds, particularly through mobile applications, and integrating them seamlessly into reality. Applications with animations, in particular, allow running processes to be developed interactively. This makes abstract concepts, which in traditional forms of learning can sometimes only be viewed from one side, more tangible. Furthermore, AR applications make it possible to explore the environment independently , which can result in an increase in learning motivation.

An example of AR learning through independent exploration is the “Timetraveler Berlin Wall” app, which integrates historical events into today's world. Critics fear that if AR applications are used unreflectively, linear modes of perception will be practiced, which prevent 'natural', dynamic perception and interaction with the world.

Television and sports

Some television and sports broadcasts rely on visual information graphics that are projected onto the screen in the form of an extension of reality. B. Provide information about the game. AR can also serve as an extension for practicing a sport, for example, with augmented climbing , the climbing wall becomes a game through light projections.

Future applications

Some examples are listed here as future applications. On the one hand, PC operating system interfaces can be expanded into the real environment. Program windows and icons are then displayed as virtual devices in real space and operated by glancing at or pointing with a finger. This can generally replace conventional screens (replacement of mobile phone and navigator screens and display of information directly in the environment, for example guidelines directly on the road, as well as extensions such as "X-ray vision" to display hidden targets), device control panels, or too completely new device types. In addition, augmented reality can be used for multimedia applications such as pseudo-holographic virtual screens, virtual "holodecks", and virtual surround cinema. But applications would also be conceivable to beautify the everyday environment, such as by displaying virtual plants, wallpapers, views, works of art, decorations, lighting, etc. With the general distribution of AR systems, virtual shop windows, posters or traffic signs could also be used.

It would also be possible for virtual and augmented reality to merge, so that the user can switch between the forms on one device.



One problem is the technical load with augmented reality, especially the tracking of the images when moving. The sensors are also affected by the movement. There is noise, drift and shadowing of the tracking system (for example with GPS , INS ). A combination of, for example, GPS with inertial and optical navigation is therefore common in advanced systems.

Another problem is the energy supply. The batteries currently available are not yet sufficient to supply mobile augmented reality systems for a longer period of time. The availability of data, authoring and high complexity of data can also lead to problems. In order to embed the virtual scene in the real scene as convincingly as possible, data are required that describe the environment in terms of its geometry and position in space; this is done using reference markers . Based on this, virtual sections can then be drawn through real objects and the concealment of the virtual objects by the real objects can be calculated. However, this geometry data is not always available or current. The complete integration of virtual objects in real scenes requires the masking of background parts so that the objects do not appear transparent. Systems that completely replace the direct view with camera images ( EyeTap ) do not have this problem, but are unsuitable for many applications.

Social aspects

Since, in addition to buildings, monuments and other static objects with increasingly better hardware and software, people could also be integrated into applications for augmented reality through facial, speech or clothing recognition software, far-reaching effects on society can be expected.

See also


Important publications:

  • R. Azuma: A Survey of Augmented Reality. In: Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments. 6, No. 4, 1997, pp. 355-385 (PDF file; 479 kB).
  • R. Azuma, Y. Baillot, R. Behringer, S. Feiner, S. Julier, B. MacIntyre: Recent advances in augmented reality. In: IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. 21, No. 6, 2001, pp. 34-47 (PDF file; 2.2 MB).
  • TP Caudell, DW Mizell: Augmented reality: an application of heads-up display technology to manual manufacturing processes . In: Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, 1992 . Vol. 2, 1992, pp. 659-669 , doi : 10.1109 / HICSS.1992.183317 .
  • Pierre Wellner, Wendy Mackay, Rich Gold: Back to the real world . In: Communications of the ACM . tape 36 , no. 7 , July 1993, p. 24-26 , doi : 10.1145 / 159544.159555 .
  • Paul Milgram, Haruo Takemura, Akira Utsumi, Fumio Kishino: Augmented reality: a class of displays on the reality-virtuality continuum . In: Proceedings of SPIE 2351, Telemanipulator and Telepresence Technologies . December 21, 1995, p. 282–292 , doi : 10.1117 / 12.197321 ( utoronto.ca [PDF; 45 kB ]).

Web links

Commons : Augmented Reality  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: augmented  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Paul Milgram, Haruo Takemura, Akira Utsumi, Fumio Kishino: Augmented reality: a class of displays on the reality-virtuality continuum . In: Proceedings of SPIE 2351, Telemanipulator and Telepresence Technologies . December 21, 1995, p. 282–292 , doi : 10.1117 / 12.197321 ( utoronto.ca [PDF; 45 kB ]). PDF file; 45 kB ( Memento of the original from October 4, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / vered.rose.utoronto.ca
  2. ^ R. Azuma: A Survey of Augmented Reality. In: Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments. 6, No. 4, 1997, pp. 355-385 (PDF file; 479 kB).
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  18. Illustration of a product viewer. Retrieved August 12, 2020 .
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  23. ^ Social Augmented Learning: Teaching and Learning in an Augmented Reality - Media Production. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on February 3, 2018 ; accessed on February 2, 2018 (German). Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www2.tu-ilmenau.de
  24. Robin von Hardenberg: timetraveler berlin wall. Robin von Hardenberg, September 22, 2014, accessed February 2, 2018 .
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  30. University of Oldenburg "Augmented Reality" IuG © 2011, viewed on December 23, 2013
  31. Archive link ( Memento of the original from November 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.medienwiki.org