Tech for your connected self

10 real-world uses of augmented reality happening today

The AR future is on the way, but what are people using it for now?

Our augmented reality future is just off in the distance, and our heads are filled with dreams. We can bring up the information we need, watch TV, play games, get easy directions to anywhere we want to go.

It's a beautiful, exciting dream. But while we dream about augmented reality, the technology has been around for decades in less consumer-y versions. That's right: augmented reality has been around us for a long time, making tons of people's lives far easier.

Read this: The best AR smartglasses

But how is it doing that? Well, let's take a stroll through real-world cases of augmented reality.

F-35 HMD

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

The F-35 fighter jet is one of the most expensive planes ever made, coming in at over $100 million per jet. That advanced – and controversial – fighter also comes with a $400,000 helmet.

The helmet is built to work with the F-35, as the jet has cameras on the outside that are constantly monitoring around its space. When it sees a potential threat, it pings the pilot on his or her head-mounted display on the helmet.

The helmet can also project a video feed onto its display so that the pilot can get a full 360-degree view around the plane – that's right, no blind spots. If the pilot wants to zoom in on anything, they can just flip a switch and the video feed will zoom.

There's also "digital night vision", a virtual HUD, weapon system information, targeting systems, and the ability add new features down the line.

Sportsvision's first-down line

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

An early use of augmented reality that is so widely available that it's boring. Back in the 1990s a little company called Sportsvision partnered up with Fox Sports and the NFL to give viewers an easy way to identify the all-important first-down line.

They came up with augmenting the picture with a yellow line. However, that yellow line always appears if it's painted on the field, rather than imposed on top of the picture and pasted over the other players.

The line has grown so popular it's hard to watch an NFL or college broadcast without it there. It may not be the fancy augmented reality you're used to, and it serves a very specific purpose, but augmenting reality is what it is.

Construction

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

The world of construction has formed a comfortable camaraderie with AR. We often only see the final products of years of design and construction work, and unless you do a stint at Habitat for Humanity you won't see the amount of detail that goes into making a building – from insulation to water pipes to electrical work and plenty more.

Autodesk has teamed up with Mortenson Construction and Daqri to trial an AR system that will let construction teams use AR headsets to view what is going on at a construction site. The system will let them see into the walls of what they're building, checking out the piping, insulation and more as they walk around the site.

This way, they can make sure things are aligned and ready to go – even when walls have started to come up and the finishing touches are being put on the building.

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AccuVein

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

Have you ever went to get a flu shot and wondered how the heck the nurse knows where your veins are? They have their techniques, like tapping your skin to get the vein into a better view, but how sure are they really?

AccuVein is aimed at solving that problem with a little rudimentary augmented reality. It's a hand-held device that projects a map of your veins onto your skin, allowing nurses to see exactly where your vein is and when's the right time to inject you with some dead viruses – or slurp up some blood sample.

Surgery navigation

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

Sometimes during a surgery a doctor will have to navigate through an area of your body they can't directly see. In movies and TV shows, you've likely seen them use cameras they place inside the body to get a better view, but there's a better option: augmented reality.

InnerOptic Technology's Magic Loupe integrates with ODG and Microsoft HoloLens to get a more accurate look at where their tools – in this case, very long and scary needles – are headed towards in your body. The more accurate their perception, the safer your internals.

Car repair

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

This year Porsche rolled out a new method for its mechanics to deal with car service and maintenance called Tech Live Look. A Porsche service engineer will put on some ODG smart glasses and dial into Porsche's Atlanta-based service HQ.

Once that's done, a remote service team can follow along with the mechanic while they work on the car. They can instantly send video tutorials, documents and more for the mechanic to view from their glasses while working on the car.

The idea is to help mechanics improve efficiency in car services, which means drivers get their vehicles back quicker.

Measuring things

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

When ARKit first went live, there was a rush of developers to put out measuring apps – for good reason. It turns out that augmented reality can be used to make measuring all kinds of things much simpler. You just point your phone at something, move it around a bit and – bingo – you get a measurement.

This will surely shoot up in popularity when Apple makes its AR measure app available, once iOS 12 is live and brings ARKit 2.0 along with it.

Logistics

If you're working in a business that needs to be efficient to beat the competition, like shipping, then you're going to prioritise efficiency over almost everything else.

Shipping companies like DHL use technologies like Vision Picking, which tell employees where items are, how many they need to pick off a shelf, and where they need to be placed on trolleys and carts. They also won't have to scan anything because the glasses pick those up automatically.

Gaming

Augmenting life: 10 real-world uses of augmented reality

Pokemon Go isn't the same sensation it once was a couple years ago, but it did make popular a new type of game. It uses the power of augmented reality to combine our real world with a more fantastical one – where we can roam around with friends and capture imaginary creatures.

Since then, there have been more takes on the concept. There's one based on the Jurassic Park franchise that lets you find dinosaurs, and Pokemon Go-maker Niantic is also working on one based on Harry Potter.

Fighting fires

With devastating forest fires a constant summertime threat in California, Cal Fire needs all the tools it can get to fight fires. Its latest tool is the Simtable, which is uses to plan how to attack a growing blaze.

Seemingly inspired or built off technology from UC Davis' AR Sandbox, the Simtable is built off a sand base. It then projects information onto that sand base depending on the sand's form. Cal Fire then projects a fire onto the sand, simulating how it has or could grow.

From there, Cal Fire can use the Simtable to strategise its response and how to limit the spread of the fire.

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