Understanding Augmented Reality


Augmented reality is here, and it’s impacting our behaviors in good ways and bad.


You probably don’t think about technology as you grab your smartphone to take a picture using a funny Snapchat filter or enjoy a game of Pokémon GO with your kids. But this technology—known as augmented reality—has been around for years. First used for military applications and training simulators, today’s consumer-centric augmented reality technology layers images and sounds over the real world you see via your smartphone camera for the purpose of entertainment.

One great aspect of augmented reality is that it allows users to become lifelong learners outside the of the classroom walls. The app Field Trip, for example, uses augmented reality as it guides users along tours for areas within its range of recognized locations. Additionally, pastimes such as stargazing can be taken to the next level by downloading the augmented reality app Star Walk. Using this app, the smartphone image you see of the sky gets over laced with galaxies and stars unseen by the naked eye.

Another benefit we’ve seen is that the technology can also encourage outdoor activity. In July, the Washington Post reported that UP fitness tracker users who mentioned “Pokémon GO” in their comments within the game walked about 60 percent more than they usually did.

Use It and Stay Engaged

While augmented reality apps can promote learning and physical activity, users still need to be careful. At the height of Pokémon GO popularity during the summer, news outlets warned about users causing car accidents, falling and injuring themselves, and not paying attention as they played the game. Other concerns are that the technology can stifle social activity by allowing users to wear headphones and tune out reality.

As with any technology, it’s important to use augmented reality in safe and appropriate ways. Try using these tips.

  • Invite others to share the experience. Use the buddy system and watch out for one another as you use the apps. Stay mindful about where you are, and abide by the laws in place.
  • Take digital breaks. Smartphones can cause the same digital strain as your computer. Take a break every few minutes to stretch your muscles and rest your eyes.
  • Be conscious of time. Screen time—no matter how small the screen—needs to be monitored. Set time limits for yourself and your children, and follow those guidelines.

How Are You Doing?

Think less of how much time you devote to any app and ask yourself if this technology adds to your life or subtracts from it.

Questions to self-diagnose your relationship with augmented reality:

  • Do you seem happier when playing games during your downtime?

  • Are you able to play or utilize apps and keep up with your social circle?

  • Do you still have time to exercise and eat healthy, balanced meals?

  • Are you still learning and engaging with information outside of augmented reality?

Once you answer these questions and others like them, ask your friends if they agree with your perception of your augmented reality usage. If you or your friends think you’re not seeing the benefits, it’s time to delete the apps.

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