Augmented reality wouldn’t be the same without an extensive use of 3D. After all, if we’re tracking an image to see something virtual on top of it, we need a 3D model that can be displayed in that virtual 3D world that exists over the real one that we see through our device’s camera.

AR is based on providing information over a real image that we get from a camera. But the interesting point is what we show, and how we show it. We want AR to be an inmersive experience, and as as we live in a tridimensional world, what can be more inmersive than showing 3D information over it?

Of course, hardware is a limit for this task. Realistic and complex 3D requires computing power. A lot of desktop computers today are able to play the latest generation videogames, which use very realistic graphics including realtime shadows, depth of field, millions of polygons, visual effects, distortions… but if we take one element of that games and put it over a real world image, we can see that it’s not so realistic at all!! (The reason is the context, as we’re seeing that object between a whole world of objects represented in the same way, it gives us a realistic experience, but when we change the context of that object to the real world, it loses that realism)

Note that we’re talking about realtime 3D graphics. In movies we’re used to see even realistic characters that perfectly fit into the real world, but that images are not realtime, a long rendering process and then manual tweaking by artists has been done to make it fit in that given scene of the movie that won’t change anymore. But realtime graphics (like in videogames) are another story. Everything must be calculated now, as it’s interactive and it depends on our actions, that’s why it requires some graphic power to represent realtime 3D.

Evolution of movile devices graphics quality during last years

Anyway, we could achieve pretty nice realtime “realistic” 3D in powerful computers, but nowadays, augmented reality is probably more used in smartphones, as they can be taken to anywhere. Smartphones and mobile devices are far from having the same computing power than desktop computers. Luckily, and we talked about this in one of the latest posts on this blog, smarphones are only a few years behind computers, and each time they evolve faster!

Most of us remember that several years ago, a mobile videogame was something like the typical “Snake”, which were a couple of black pixels in the small white screen. Today, we have big, tactile, high resolution and loaded with bright colors screens, and there are plenty of 3D videogames with a quality that just a few years back in time would impress us on a console like Play Station 2. Talking about Play Station… PSVita is a portable console that has really high quality 3D graphics, and some videogames for that device are taking advantage of Augmented Reality Technology.

So yes, we could say that videogames are one of the most popular uses of Augmented Reality, but there are a lot of different uses for it. For example, objects previsualization could be one of them, thanks to 3D technology. Imagine that you can see a 3D model of an object you’re designing, and that you can rotate it with your hand to look at it from a different angle. Amazing, isn’t it?

3D gives us the ability to interact with virtual tridimensional objects over a real tridimensional world. And that’s why it’s so important to AR, it’s the only way to make something virtual look like if it was “real”. Lots of us has seen at least once a 3D object tracking demo. You move an image in front of a camera, and in the screen, you can see a 3D model standing over that image. Those are baby steps of the AR technology, though; Now we’re leading to interactive 3D, much more inmersive and useful that just looking at a model over an image, which is also very cool itself, I must say!

Do not forget to check out our AR Browser and Image Matching SDKs.

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