Augmented Reality, or AR, has been available for gaming systems, such as the Nintendo 3DS, since 2012, but as mobile phones begin to replace portable gaming devices, smartphone developers have also started to adopt this technology. But what is AR?

AR is a bit different than the more-familiar virtual reality, which places a user into a computer-generated world. With AR, digital objects appear in the real world.

Currently, most mobile devices offer some sort of AR experience. Some are as simple as the digital artwork users add to their selfies via Snapchat or the iPhone X’s Animoji, but other AR apps are more advanced, such as the massively popular ‘Pokemon Go.’

With ‘Pokemon Go,’ phones map the environment to make it look as if gamers are hunting Pokemon in real life. However, current technology, particularly on the iPhone, struggles with vertical planes and depth perception. This can ruin game immersion. For example, if a user is hunting Pokemon, the digital creature will always appear in front of environmental obstacles, such as cars or trees, instead of hiding behind the object (which would be more realistic).

Samsung and Google phones are already tackling this problem with advanced AR technology, and rumors indicate Apple also plans to address the problem within the next few years. Bloomberg Technology reported that Apple is developing a rear-facing 3-D sensor system which could be added to iPhones by 2019. This laser system will help users’ phones create a 3-D picture of the environment, which would then be used for a more advanced AR experience.