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What Is Augmented Reality?

The queen of hearts only wanted red roses in wonderland. He commanded the gardeners to paint the white roses, shouting: Cut off their heads! Today, the queen would not have had to resort to fearsome threats. To transform what he saw, an augmented reality application would have been enough for him.

But what is augmented reality, outside of stories? According to Wikipedia: “Augmented reality (AR) is the term used to describe the set of technologies that allow a user to visualize part of the real world through a technological device with graphic information added by this device.”

For us it is much simpler: AR is the technology that incorporates virtual elements into the real world, through the device’s camera. In short, what we do is superimpose on what exists, on what we see, a digital content: an animation, a video, a text … And the possibilities that open up, beyond turning white roses into red ones, they are really exciting. Let us think of the field in which we think (communication, leisure, education, sales …), we feel in possession of a new lens to look at the world. Very close to Wonderland.

Before considering what augmented reality can bring to the health sector, it is important to remember where we come from. Because although it seems a very new technology, augmented reality began to work many years ago, back in the 70s. The problem with this technology is that it then required a powerful computer, beta software, or not very accessible in many cases. (experimental), a Vidi or QR code pattern (quite ugly, why should we deny it), a video capture device on the computer and a video camera connected to the equipment.

We needed all that to be able to start visualizing an augmented reality image on the computer. We achieved this through a video camera connected by three cables (one video and two audio) and with a printed pattern for it.

The results for that time were incredible, but the deployment of means was so high that nobody saw it as useful at the moment. Can you imagine currently setting up a PC in a supermarket, with a video camera connected, with some horrible patterns printed in the toy catalog and having to go one by one to see the AR? Almost better to show the toys themselves in action.

Recalling these beginnings of AR, the first time we tried the Oculus Rift Virtual Reality glasses at Inneva Pharma, just a few months ago. I remember being in front of a super team, putting on a pair of glasses that cost a pasture, with a few cables hanging and some good audio helmets over the glasses. I had the same feeling as in 2006, when we did the first tests with augmented reality.

But fortunately, augmented reality technology has advanced dramatically. We really began to see the first practical approaches in games for consoles or mobiles with cameras that allowed us with a single device to live an AR experience. And without a doubt the trigger that put augmented reality on everyone’s lips was the game Pokémon Go! When we analyzed a possible augmented reality application for a project, we went from having to explain the technology to the client and showing examples that, as mentioned by the AR, answered us directly: “like Pokémon Go !, right?”. Although the popular Nintendo game isn’t exactly an augmented reality app, it helped us all see this technology as understandable, possible, and accessible.

And then came the product catalogs, the projections that helped us see the house we were buying off-plan, the animated books, and of course a thousand and one games and entertainment. And it is that leisure and marketing have been the most willing sectors to cross to the other side of the mirror towards Wonderland, or if you prefer, the “early adopters” of new technologies.

Currently there are different methods of applying augmented reality, but they can be summarized in two: with a recognition pattern or without a pattern (ARKIT or ARCORE). Remember that the pattern is the marker or code that the device camera “reads” to “shoot” the digital content that we have prepared. Without this pattern, you can also “lift” augmented reality, either by geolocation (as Pokémon Go! Does with Google maps) or directly “mapping” reality, the room you are in.

Although the seamless augmented reality is technically more advanced, the last solution is not always the optimal one to use according to our objectives. To understand it, let’s put some examples, considering both alternatives.

AR on product or in events

If you want to carry out a promotional action, it may be interesting that the pattern is on the product or is directly the image of the product. In this way, the action (and the interest of the target audience) is focused on the product itself. You can even turn the packaging into the access door to the content, and that is necessary to get the information displayed on the screen once the device detects the pattern.

For example, you can show by using 3D animation how that product is used. Let’s think, in the case of health, in showing the effect of a treatment, or the mechanism of injectors, inhalers or any instrument with some difficulty. Is there a more effective instruction manual? How much time does a healthcare professional spend in his office giving the patient instructions that are not strictly on therapeutic action?

Another section to which the two modalities of AR are perfectly applied are events or meetings. They are very successful, for example, virtual photocalls that recreate scenarios or 3D characters with which the user interacts and takes a photo, with the objectives of attracting an audience to a point, sharing their experience on social networks or having a indelible memory of his time there.

You also begin to see invitations to scientific meetings that contain a pattern on the physical card. This allows you to include a registration button and provide a lot of extra information, including news, changes in the program, simply by having the assistant point to the flyer with their mobile. Even upload the meeting minutes once they are public. Yincanas are also made with patterns (which trigger different information) so that the assistant follows a specific route or visits all the places to which they want to attract.

But let’s think further, what we have already seen and what will amaze us in future events. Let’s think about setting up a virtual stand anywhere, showing very impressive and visual information, in any hallway, simply by “tracking” the surface. Let’s consider turning any corner into the Queen of Hearts red rose garden.

Effective communication between doctor and patient

There are many formulas to improve communication between the healthcare professional and the augmented reality patient. Imagine that the doctor, using the tablet and a pattern printed on a leaflet in his pocket, can “activate” a 3D animation to show the affected organ, the pathology, expose how it will evolve with the treatment, or even visualize how the surgical operation in an animated 3D model. How many professionals use a sketch on paper to give these explanations? AR can help with that complex information by presenting it in a very visual way.

And not only in the case of a patient, but also in students. Augmented reality represents a real revolution in the field of learning, due to its direct nature and the possibilities of interaction with content, which makes it preferable to regular videos and presentations. But there are two advantages that tip the scales towards AR in the field of training: the first, which allows a collective experience, which does not isolate, if we compare it with virtual reality glasses. The second is that, by combining real vision with extra content, it favors meaningful learning, which lasts the longest in our brain.

We do not forget the promotional materials, which surely whoever reads this has already had the opportunity to try. The AR brings added value to any brochure or article, such as medical visit materials. Bring an illustration from the booklet to life and turn it into a mechanism of action or to show graphics with the results of the studies. And, in addition, it gives a lot of strength and visibility to the message, in addition to capturing attention. It is a very powerful tool for the sales force, which does not go directly to the trash or is forgotten in a drawer, and which manages to make a difference in a very competitive environment, in which complete and accurate information must be transmitted in a timely manner. limited.

These examples are just a sample of what we are already experiencing in our environment. But this technology, which has reached a very solvent technological maturity point, has no limits. Remember we are treading in Wonderland.

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