Augmented Reality Tracking
Augmented Reality (AR) is the inclusion of digital objects in real-world space that can include video, 3D models, animation and audio. Depending on your device, you can interact with these digital objects by touch, gesture or voice commands. For an AR experience to begin and become part of your real-world, your device needs to understand your environment first so it knows where to place the digital content. It does this through tracking.
Augmented Reality Tracking Techniques
Tracking enables your AR device (such as a smart phone or AR enabled headset) to scan the real-world and identify flat surfaces, models, images or a person’s face so digital content can be placed relevant to that item. Having digital objects being aware of and reactive to the real-world environment aids the feeling of presence and produces the platform for an immersive experience. There are a number of tracking options available and here we’ll look at five common ones used with modern smartphones.
5 Key Tracking Options for Smartphone AR
There are five key tracking options for starting and managing an AR session on your smartphone.
- IMAGE TRACKING
- FACE TRACKING
- WORLD TRACKING
- OBJECT TRACKING
- GEOLOCATION TRACKING
Image tracking or marker-based tracking was one of the first methods used for AR. It uses a target image that the user scans and once processed, digital content is placed relevant to that image, usually overlaying it with additional text, images and video content. This is used to bring books to life with additional content, dynamic business cards, and artwork in museums. Examples include animating the cover of the New Yorker and HP’s postcard.
Face tracking follows the movement of a user’s face and is used to overlay artwork, special effects or 3D objects mapped to anchor points on the face (including eyes, nose, cheeks, and mouth). This highly popular method of applying live face filters to user’s faces is provided by companies such as SnapChat.
World tracking uses computer vision to map the user’s real-world environment and identifies horizontal and vertical planes that digital content can be placed upon. Once the digital content has been added to these planes, it is anchored in real-world space allowing the user to walk around, inspect, and interact with the content. This provides a user benefit of being able to launch the experience in almost limitless locations. Examples include the IKEA PLACE AR app used to place digital versions of furniture in your house and educational AR reading apps.
Object tracking scans and recognises objects that have been pre-mapped. Digital content can then be incorporated or overlayed onto the physical object such as the inner mechanics of a motor vehicle or the inside of a computer. This can provide a dynamic experience but initiating it is restricted to being in close proximity to the object.
Geolocation tracking uses a device’s GPS to locate user position I order to provide contextual digital content. The accuracy is not as precise as the other tracking methods and can throw up variances of a few meters. However, this can still be used effectively for street-based directions, user reviews of businesses as you pass by their premises, labels on landmarks, treasure hunts or Pokémon that require capture.
So there are quite a number of tracking options to start an AR experience, all with different pros and cons. Once you have identified the best tracking option, you can think about creating your digital content. Discover the mix of digital content available that can be presented within an AR experience.