CENIE · 07 September 2022

What is augmented reality?

All reports and studies on the longevity economy point to an increasing use of the latest technologies by the senior population. The Senior Consumer Barometer, published by Fundación Mapfre, within the framework of the Ageingnomics Research Centre, highlights that 76% of the population aged between 55-65 years carry out banking transactions via the Internet or shows that electronic and technological devices are in 4th place in the ranking of purchases; this, combined with leisure and information consumption trends, has a direct impact on the socio-economic level. And the fact is that, according to the Study of the longevity economy of longevity, "the group of people over 50 years of age represents the largest part of Spanish purchasing power". 

With this data, we cannot ignore the fact that our seniors are increasingly opting for technology as an engine of leisure and activities. And in this post we are going to tell you what augmented reality is all about, its applications in leisure and what is projected for this technology in the future.  There are currently countless ways to make the information we consume on any subject that interests us more attractive and accessible, we can listen, read, look at graphics, see images, etc. And the more visual this information is, the easier it is to assimilate and retain, and the more accessible it is for the interested public. That is why we are constantly looking for new ways to represent this information in the most visual way possible and one of them is augmented reality. 

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is a technique within the field of artificial intelligence, specifically within artificial vision, which consists of superimposing the virtual world on reality. This is an important difference with virtual reality, a much more popular technique with a similar name but which should not be confused, as it does not mix reality with the virtual world but creates virtual elements over a virtual world, for example virtual reality glasses.

How is Augmented Reality created?

The process to create AR consists of several steps: first, the reality must be captured with a camera, as this must be the "background" on which the objects or virtual information are placed. Then a detection must be made on this reality, depending on the objective of the AR, pictures can be detected inside a museum, technically called flat patterns; figures, facial faces, facades... that is to say, thanks to artificial intelligence we can detect almost anything. 

Once the detection has been made, we must position the virtual object (or the virtual camera) within the world. To do so, we must obtain the extrinsic matrix, which consists of a rotation matrix and a translation vector, thanks to which we can estimate the position of the detection in the world. This extrinsic matrix is obtained by knowing the points of the detection in the image and the same points of the detection in the real world, using an OpenCV function called solvePnP[1]. Finally, thanks to a graphics engine, this virtual object can be projected onto the plane of reality captured in the first step. 

Augmented Reality World - Diagram by Ignacio García-Siñeriz 

Augmented reality in the art world

This technology is already being used in many areas of everyday life. Image filters that superimpose masks and effects on our faces are an example of this, thanks to which images of our acquaintances are embellished or even funny. Another very common example is its use in games where, thanks to AR, it allows a much closer interaction with the game. There are also companies that sell their products with this technology, such as fashion shops, which allow you to try their products from home in a very realistic way.

The advantage of this technology and thanks to the huge advance in computing, all these applications are easily executed from our mobile device, being able to create and visualise this AR in a very simple way. Some of the applications on the market that are capable of this are:

  • Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat: social networks for sharing images and videos very used nowadays, which allow us to superimpose beauty filters and objects such as 'dog face' and many more effects, on our facial faces in a very simple way. They are constantly evolving and allow more and more innovative and creative filters.
  • Pokemon GO: AR video game with which you can play the legendary Pokemon game while walking down the street, interacting with both the virtual world and reality.

But another much more enriching area is its use in museums. Thanks to AR, we can detect a specific painting, such as Guernica, and superimpose layers of audiovisual content on it in the form of virtual objects such as text, videos or even make the painting come to life. Finding a much more interactive way with what we are observing and soaking in all the background of the paintings with details that an audio guide cannot offer.

Some of the applications that offer this technology [2] are:

  • Sorolla Museum AR: an application that generates augmented reality on some of the paintings in the Sorolla Museum, where the painter himself explains the history of each painting in a very entertaining way using your phone.
  • Artivive: an application that detects famous paintings and recreates them on our mobile phones, giving the viewer a lot of history about the work.

Amazing Augmented Reality Outdoor Gallery At The Albertina Museum

Looking to the future

But augmented reality has much more to offer in the future, this technology has only just begun. Mobile phones for its implementation is only the beginning of what is to come, they are very convenient to use but offer very large restrictions on the possibilities of this technology, because it is not comfortable to have to point with the mobile phone to a picture on which to perform AR and display it on the screen of these losing much of its 3D appeal.

This is why other ways of representing these virtual objects are being sought, for example the use of special devices capable of creating augmented reality on reality without the need to point with any device or to show reality on a screen, but to be able to see these virtual objects as a hologram on reality itself.

These devices offer new horizons for technology that allow it to integrate with reality in a much more natural and direct way, bringing it closer to any interested user and making it much more appealing. It could improve the use of GPS in the car by displaying the road ahead on the moon itself and thus avoiding many distractions, or glasses showing this augmented reality on our own eyes...

A beginning of this is Microsoft's Hololens [3], augmented reality glasses that allow us to create complex 3D graphics that we can interact with as if they were real objects. But for the moment, this technology is far from the consumer, as these products are very expensive and impractical at the moment. But it is undoubtedly the beginning of an exciting world.


[1] https://docs.opencv.org/4.x/d5/d1f/calib3d_solvePnP.html

[2] https://realidadaumentada.click/realidad-aumentada-en-los-museos/ 

[3] https://www.microsoft.com/es-es/hololens 

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal