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Apple’s chief executive described the platform as “huge”, Amazon is planning to invest in it and IKEA has been using it for over a year. So what is ‘augmented reality’, and is it worth swotting up on?

What is augmented reality?

Augmented reality (AR) is the integration of the existing environment with new, digital information. In contrast to virtual reality; which replaces the real world with an artificial one; it is entirely based on the real-time surroundings of the user.

It’s highly likely that you will be familiar with this if you have heard of – or indeed played – Pokémon Go, as it is one of the main functions around which the fad-of-the-moment is based. The main appeal of the game, aside from the nostalgia factor, is its ability to allow the user to find and collect Pokémon in their actual environment. For example, a character could appear next to your armchair, desk computer or beside the treadmill at the gym: wherever the user goes, Pokémon are usually nearby.

If you can’t quite imagine it, here’s CDA’s Chief Happiness Officer, Dylan, clearly enjoying the game:

Dylan dog

What’s next for augmented reality?

Undoubtedly, Pokémon Go has raised the profile of augmented reality; having thrilled the world, but what does the future hold for the technology?

Mixed reviews

Already, there are rumours about which franchises will be next to create a Pokémon Go clone, and a petition has been launched for Warner Bros.’ to create a Harry Potter version, which is highly likely. But there are those who don’t believe in AR, claiming that it is not popular as a technology, rather it is simply part of the popular Pokémon brand.

Aside from gaming, though, augmented reality could hold some commercial potential, with the likes of Apple, Amazon and IKEA investing in it. IKEA, for example, utilises the technology in an ingenious way; allowing customers to see what its products would look like in their homes.

Testing the IKEA app in the CDA office
Testing the IKEA app in the CDA office


Augmented reality will definitely be prominent in the next few years, whether in gaming or commercial content. But what is unknown is how long it will be prominent for; will it end up becoming another temporary technological craze, or could it shape our digital future?