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What are examples of augmented reality overlays?

An augmented reality overlay can benefit any industry. However, to do so, IEEE member Todd Richmond says, the experience must be well done.

Done well, augmented reality overlays can provide organizations with more information and situational awareness, leading to better decisions and better outcomes. Done poorly, overlays can lead to attention tunneling and cognitive overload. And it can be an especially fine line between the two.

Any industry can benefit from overlays. For example, physicians can see information overlaid on their patient while looking him in the eyes rather than having to stare down at an electronic health record on a laptop. Likewise, surgeons can get real-time information and instructions if needed, data relevant to the exact time, task and patient -- all without having to pause a surgery. Teachers can see data on students -- particularly if you combine an AR overlay with IoT sensors, such as biometric devices -- and have a better idea of how to interact with their pupils. In learning environments, students can get information that is immersive and contextual -- in turn, receiving better, more engaging education. In another example, construction workers can see hazards or even read guides for tasks and locations hands-free. In a consumer sense, customers can see products in their home, and clients can see and experience whatever they are trying to create -- be it a building, a room or a widget -- before any metal is bent or wood hammered.

The applications of AR overlays are endless.

But the 800-pound elephant in the room is whether or not the augmented reality overlay experience is well done.

Creating technological capabilities is relatively easy. Using those capabilities in a way that touches a human being in a meaningful way is relatively hard and often underestimated. Humans are not genetically wired to engage with digital; we are analog beings. The trick is to figure out how to make the digital side of things immersive and useful for humans. And that typically is why the ability to tell a story in an AR experience often ends up as one of the glues that can make it all come together. Said another way, I think of storytelling as egg yolk, it is a binding agent between dissimilar -- human = analog, virtual = digital -- things. Just as oil and vinegar don't really mix, they form an unstable emulsion, and when you add egg yolk, you form a stable emulsion (mayonnaise).

Story, along with other things like policy and play, can serve as the egg yolk for our increasingly emulsional world.

This was last published in May 2019

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Which augmented reality overlays have you seen in action?
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