AR GlassesAugmented Reality

How Augmented Reality Glasses Work

Discover the science and technology behind augmented reality glasses which make their existence possible.

Sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke once famously said that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This seems to apply to some of the latest gadgets, including augmented reality glasses. By putting them on, we can transform reality, add various items and change colors to our environment, juxtapose images over the real world and so on.

In reality, the magic of augmented reality glasses is nothing more than science and the clever use of our mind’s ability to interpret images and allow itself to be tricked by visual stimuli. Augmented reality glasses are a combination of a few key components which work together to create the effect of extra items added to the real world.

In a simple breakdown, these components are:


The Display

The display of augmented reality glasses is also known as the combiner. This name is an accurate description of the component. It combines glass lenses which allow natural light to pass on through to the eyes with digital LED or OLED displays which send the computer-generated images to the eyes.

Thus, when one wears augmented reality glasses, they see images from a double source: the real world outside and the computer-generated objects.


The Camera

The AR mobile or web app cannot exactly see through your eyes. It needs a camera to record the images in the real world. This camera is attached to the AR glasses or, if you are using a smartphone, the phone camera is activated to capture images.


augmented reality glasses
Man wearing glasses for augmented reality at Smau, international exhibition of information communications technology on October 22, 2014 in Milan.


The Registration

The registration consists of icons (which the wearer cannot see) through which the computerized part of the devices places an AR object in the real world. These icons or markers are the reason why you suddenly see a new sofa or a coffee table in your room when you are trying a home décor augmented reality app.

The icons or markers use various landmarks from the real world image for guidance, such as the corner made between two walls, the lines of the window, the geometrical shape of a carpet, etc.


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The Computer Vision

This is where “the magic” happens, so to say. A programmed app or software suite has to combine the two types of images – the one supplied by the camera and the one generated by the registration with the aid of the markers.

The result of this combination is what you actually see through the augmented reality glasses.


The Field of View

One of the important issues to consider when shopping for AR glasses is field of view. This makes the difference between a truly immersive experience and looking at something through swimming goggles. The usual human field of view is around 210 degrees horizontally and 150 degrees vertically.

AR glasses cannot reproduce these numbers, first of all due to the physical limitations of placing the lenses in a headset. Then there is the issue of the computing power needed to process and display the digital objects with a reasonably high fidelity and resolution. At the present, a 50-degree field of view is already considered large for augmented reality glasses.

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