Augmented reality or AR can be described as the superimposition of digital elements into the view of the user’s real environment. Devices such as cameras relay the view of real-life locations and objects while AR software incorporates various artificial materials into the view or even complete digital environments. For example, the superimposition of computer-generated 3D objects such as a magazine or a book on a real table. AR also operates in real-time, thus enabling you to read a virtual book while your view also picks up other things occurring or happening in the environment around you in real-time.

AR initially gained mainstream popularity due to the various prospects the concept had in gaming. However, with passing time and the adoption of technology in all kinds of industries and sectors, AR also experienced prospects in training, education and various simulations. We are now again back to a period where AR is heavily being incorporated by the gaming industry. A lot of AR’s popularity has been a direct result of the adoption of VR worlds and exploratory games. This is especially true with devices such as Oculus Rift and HTC VIVE offering AR-based experiences in virtual worlds. 

What is AR in Gaming?

Augmented reality in gaming can easily be described as incorporating your real environment or real movement into your gaming experience. For gaming, game studios can choose to augment your reality completely and only use your physical movement from real life as instructions for your in-game character or tool. Otherwise, games can also choose to minorly augment your reality by keeping most of your real environment as it is and just superimposing digital elements or assets.

The main difference between games that are more inclined towards AR or the ones that are more inclined towards VR can be understood with the help of what kind of devices are involved. For example, for VR, you do not need any additional hardware and you can experience VR without a camera attached to your device. For instance, VR worlds such as Sandbox or other true-to-life open-world games do not need cameras and additional devices to function and players can experience the world around them without actually doing anything in the real world.

However, in AR games such as various games for Nintendo Wii or Oculus, you need cameras and devices that help you relay your in-game actions through various movements or triggers. Let us take the example of an AR-based application that allows you to put digital blocks or virtual furniture in your room. This kind of experience that can be defined as augmented reality always needs cameras in order to capture your environment in real-time. Similarly, for experiences such as getting attacked with the help of devices that vibrate or apply pressure, you will always need additional devices. It is the same for the devices that have been developed to recreate or emulate various smells with the help of combinations.

AR systems do not just involve visual experiences but also feature the complete augmentation of auditory experiences as well. While visual and auditory experiences can easily be orchestrated with speakers, screens and lenses, there are also other senses that can be fooled with the help of different kinds of devices. The devices that help project the smell of different organic and inorganic matter might also be incorporated in games later on.

How Games are Affected by AR?

AR was initially used in mainstream games through systems such as Nintendo Wii where mostly movements of players are classified as triggers for various instructions or control flows. Notably, control flows are a set of steps that a computational process goes through when a specific instruction is given. Similarly, in games, these can be seen in the form of your digital avatar moving when you are moving or being able to strike an in-game tennis ball when you predict accurately in real life. 

AR is always associated with real-time operations, thus always requiring to dedicate computing resources or capable hardware. Newer AR implementations are even more demanding in terms of processing capabilities as the reality is being altered or modified in real-time. Even when the camera hardware inside a mobile device captures a picture, the image must first be processed by the mobile device’s computation resources. Now, imagine processing real-time video feeds while also incorporating additional digital elements. Thus, AR software or programmes started becoming more resource-efficient and more standardised so that all kinds of devices can use them. A prime example of a well optimised AR game would be Pokemon Go. The game was downloaded and played by millions of users worldwide.

Similarly, there are even AR games for your phone that connect to other devices such as remote-controlled (RC) cars or drones. This allows the view or the video feed captured by these RC vehicles to be augmented by adding digital obstacles or other artificial vehicles. There are also many AR games available for Android and iOS devices that allow you to interact with your environment in real-time. Due to our mobile devices improving significantly every year, these games are also getting more detailed and immersive. With more computing power, comes the ability to render more high-quality graphics in real-time. And, this is where both devices and AR games have been making extremely steady progress.

Devices such as HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift allow us to truly experience what AR has to offer and what we can expect in the future. AR makes games more captivating to play and allows players to get more immersed in the game world. This is a very compelling reason for game studios to invest in AR. Games can even choose to integrate advertisements and promotions in their games with AR technology, making it an even better investment for game studios.  

The Final Word

Augmented reality is the future of gaming and with various platforms promising to incorporate various AR devices and experiences into their metaverses, it truly seems like there has never been a more promising future for AR. Also, AR is used across the world for high-quality corporate and technical training. AR is even used for sensitive surgical training for doctors or spacecraft repair training for astronauts. Being accurate enough for these kinds of applications and practices, it is only normal that AR technologies can improve our gaming experiences even more drastically in the future. 

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