What Is Augmented Reality Tracking?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Augmented reality tracking follows a person's head position to feed appropriate images to a display or environment. Designing an appropriate tracking system is critical for image registration, to ensure that the augmented overlay meshes up with the user’s position in the environment. If the user is not tracked properly, the sense of realism can be interrupted, and distortions of the environment can make people feel nauseous or disoriented. Researchers in this field incorporate several approaches, of which head-mounted displays are among the most popular.

A tablet can be used with augmented reality tracking to overlay digital data.
A tablet can be used with augmented reality tracking to overlay digital data.

People in augmented reality environments see additional features beyond the world around them. This can be used for gaming as well as activities like multimedia presentations or research applications where digital data can be laid across the environment. For example, a satellite navigation system could include annotations to direct the user to a specific location or to help people locate resources.

The position of the person using the system is important to provide accurate information. One example of augmented reality tracking can be seen in head-mounted display systems used by some military agencies. People rely on displays to refer information about who is present, whether they are friendly or hostile, and what kinds of resources are available. As they change position, the tracking system needs to update with new information; a soldier who turns in response to a noise and sees a person, for example, needs instant feedback to flag the person as friendly to prevent an accident.

Systems used for augmented reality tracking monitor the user’s head in space, using tools like gyroscopes for angle and position. As the head rotates, the system can update in real-time to provide feedback that will update the digital data in the system. It is also possible to combine augmented reality tracking with a tablet or small personal computer to give directions or overlay digital data; for example, a mobile phone can display an updated map with directions, based on the geographic position and orientation of the phone.

Speed and accuracy are important in augmented reality tracking. Systems also need to integrate well with the rest of a program to reduce gaps or errors in data. If a head tracker, for example, doesn’t have a way of accounting for someone looking straight up, people might see a hole in the data which could be confusing or disorienting. This may break the sense of reality in the augmented environment, pulling people out of a game or simulated setting.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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