How Augmented Reality (AR) Can Bring You Closer To Your Loved Ones From A Distance
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital information on the real world, creating an interactive and enhanced reality experience. AR has found its place in multiple sectors, reaching interpersonal communication. But how is it being used when maintaining long-distance relationships with other people?
For years, Augmented Reality has been presented as a tool to shorten physical barriers , allowing people to share experiences as if they were in the same space. Something similar to what we see in the Jedi meeting rooms in Star Wars, but less sophisticated, for now.
But let’s give it some context before we get into it.
The history of AR dates back to the first decades of the 20th century , with the first experiments in film and television that sought to add graphics and special effects to real images. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s that AR began to take shape as we know it today , with researchers in computer laboratories developing the first systems that allowed virtual images to be overlaid on the real world.
In the field of communication , AR has evolved significantly. Initially, it was used in professional and military environments for training and simulations. With the presence of mobile phones with advanced cameras and motion sensors , AR became accessible to the general public. Apps like Snapchat, for example, constantly take advantage of AR to create filters that modify users’ images in real time, a playful form of visual communication.
The fact is that AR has transformed the way people in long-distance relationships interact, offering everything from simple shared games to deeper experiences, such as joint virtual tours and shared daily activities in real time. These experiences have helped couples maintain a sense of closeness and connection, despite physical distance.
As technology advances, AR is becoming an increasingly sophisticated tool for distance communication . Every day, AR experiences become more personalized and reactive, providing an almost palpable interaction that promises to revolutionize long-distance relationships, making them richer and more multisensory.
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Evolution of AR in the context of long-distance relationships
We all know that remote communication has undergone a notable evolution in recent decades, transforming through technological innovation and adapting to the changing needs of society. Augmented Reality (AR) is one of the latest trends, but let’s pay attention to the evolution in the world of distance relationships:
- 1990s: Remote communication was dominated by email and the first instant messaging services. These digital tools began to replace letters and phone calls as the primary means of maintaining long-distance contact.
- Early 2000s: With the advent of mobile phones, SMS text messaging became a quick and personal way to communicate. Although limited in content, they offered an instant connection.
- Mid-2000s: The proliferation of smartphones and high-speed internet access gave way to more advanced messaging applications, which included the ability to share images and videos, enriching the communication experience.
- Late 2000s and early 2010s: Social media and video calling apps began to enable richer, real-time interactions, further bridging the emotional distance between people.
- Mid-2010s: AR enters the scene with applications that allow users to interact with virtual elements overlaid on the real world. Games like Pokémon GO demonstrated the potential of AR, giving visibility to this technology around the world.
- Late 2010s to present: AR applications have become more sophisticated , enabling not only gaming but also shared experiences such as virtual museum tours, attendance at live events, and the ability to project realistic avatars into each other’s space. one, providing a sense of physical presence.
Current statistics indicate that AR adoption is on the rise. According to a report by Statista, the number of mobile AR users is expected to reach 1.73 billion by 2024 , demonstrating significant growth from approximately 200 million in 2015.
In the context of long-distance relationships, AR is beginning to be seen not only as a novelty, but as an essential tool to maintain connection . Trends show that AR applications are increasingly being used to share experiences as if couples or friends were together in the same place. For example, applications that allow people to watch movies together or explore new tourist destinations in real time are gaining popularity, as I will discuss later.
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AR technologies applied to long-distance relationships
Let’s now look at some of the emerging platforms and applications, as well as use cases that illustrate how AR is redefining interpersonal communication.
On the one hand we have platforms like Snapchat , which I mentioned at the beginning, that allow users to send messages with overlaid virtual elements, such as masks and special effects that react in real time to facial movements and the environment.
On the other hand, there are platforms like Spatial that allow users to create avatars and participate in meetings and events in a shared AR space . Many times the scenario is completely virtual, so we would go from Augmented Reality to Virtual Reality, although on other occasions there may be real elements in the projection, fitting better into the concept of AR.
The devices that make this possible can range from simple mobile phones to mixed or even virtual reality glasses, such as the Microsoft HoloLens and the Magic Leap One, which are taking AR to a more advanced level, allowing users to see and interact with holograms. three-dimensional in their immediate surroundings. These devices are beginning to be used to share experiences in real time, such as cooking together or carrying out recreational activities.
Glasses like Google Glass did not have the success they deserved , but they represented an idea that frequently returns to the market: using apparently normal glasses to view digital content over real ones.
Examples of how AR could change interpersonal communication
We already know the technologies that make it possible, let’s now look at some examples that could be real in the coming years:
- Shared virtual tourism: AR applications can allow people to take virtual tours of cities and museums, providing a shared experience that can be enjoyed simultaneously, despite being in different geographic locations. To do this, we could use glasses to project the figure of the other person while we walk through a room.
- Education and co-learning: AR is used to create shared learning environments, where people can study and learn together. For example, an AR app can project a 3D anatomical model into each user’s space, allowing a couple to explore the model together while in different locations.
- Shopping and joint decisions: AR applications could transform the remote shopping experience, allowing couples or friends to try and view products in their real space, such as furniture or home decoration, facilitating joint decision-making in real time.
- Remote support and assistance: In situations where a person needs assistance or guidance to perform a task, AR allows a remote user to overlay prompts and annotations on the local user’s field of view, as if they were there to help.
- Personalized shared experiences: AR apps can personalize shared experiences based on relationship history and preferences. For example, a couple could celebrate an anniversary by projecting digital memories, such as photos and videos, on the walls of their home.
These are just a few examples, but they already illustrate how AR could enrich remote relationships, providing a sense of presence and participation that was previously difficult to achieve. Over the next few years we are likely to see even more innovative applications that continue to transform interpersonal communication in the digital realm.
Emotional and psychological impact
Finally, it is important to talk about a topic that is being increasingly studied: the impact of this type of technology on the emotional and psychological field of long-distance relationships .
On the one hand, it’s true that AR’s ability to overlay digital elements onto the physical environment has opened new avenues for emotional connection and shared presence, but some academic studies have begun to explore in more detail how AR can impact relationships.
A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior suggests that AR can improve the quality of communication by allowing interactions to be more expressive and personalized , as it adds a layer of depth to interactions that traditional media cannot. replicate, such as the ability to share experiences in real time and in a more immersive way.
Other research ensures that AR can increase a person’s sense of presence, which is crucial to maintaining intimacy in long-distance relationships , however, its integration into everyday life is not without challenges and ethical dilemmas, especially in regarding privacy, security and technological dependency.
While AR can improve communication, there is also a danger that people may prefer AR-enhanced interactions over face-to-face interactions, which could lead to a deterioration in social skills and disconnection from the physical world .
To address these challenges, it is essential that developers, policymakers, and users work together to establish practices and regulations that protect privacy and promote ethical and conscious use of AR . Education and awareness about the responsible use of technology are essential to ensure that AR serves as a tool that improves, and does not diminish, the quality of our human relationships.