Although many consider Augmented Reality (AR) a late 21st century development, the immersive technology has been with us much longer. Can’t be that long, you might think right now.But you pretty sure did not think AR is about 60 years old, did you?
Of course, it wasn’t as advanced as we know it today. But still, quite an impressive resume! Today, AR in all its forms is almost everywhere and has become one of the biggest technology trends in the digital market. Snapchat filters, AR games like Pokémon Go, and augmented shopping are already part of our daily lives. And even after almost 60 years of enriching our reality, AR is far from retired.
Augmented Reality gained its name, because it literally augments our reality – with information, visual graphics, sounds, animations and many more. AR enhances the physical world with virtual elements that interact or blend in with the given environment. It is specifically useable on mobile devices like smartphones or tablets, using the camera view of each device to place the augmented extensions. But speaking of AR as a final development would be entirely wrong: The technology continues to be constantly progressed and manifests its high standard of innovation as a permanent part of a digital future. And while all of us are constantly racing towards the future, we want to take a minute and appreciate the past and the long way AR has gone.
AR found its origin in the 1960’s, when pioneer Ivan Sutherland developed the ‘Sword of Damocles’ at the University of Salt Lake City in the United States. The device was a head-mounted three-dimensional display functioning as a pair of glasses to view images in 3D. The difference to the AR Glasses we know today? The device was so heavy, it had to be suspended from the ceiling and the user strapped to the device in order to work properly. Doesn’t sound very comfortable … The hovering and imposing installation was also the reason, why the device’s name was inspired by Greek mythology – hovering above the users head just as the ‘Sword of Damocles’… quite pessimistic name for such an innovative progress, isn’t it?
Boeing Computer Service researchers Tom Caudell and David Mizell were asked to create an alternative for Boing’s very outdated system of large plywood instruction boards for the building of aircrafts. The two researchers came up with a head-mounted display for aircraf construction workers named ‘Augmented Reality’. This display overlaid the position of cables through the eyewear and projected them onto the boards. By then, aircraft builders did not need to use different boards for each aircraft, but the custom wiring instructions could be worn by the workers. Thanks Tom and David! We couldn’t wish for a cooler name than AR.
Louis Rosenburg created the AR tool ‘Virtual Fixtures’ at the US Air Force Research Laboratory, a virtual flying training for Air Force pilots.
1994: AR in Theatre and Entertainment
Writer and producer Julie Martin was the first to integrate AR to a theatre production. Named ‚Dancing in Cyberspace‘, the show featured acrobats dancing alongside projected virtual objects on the stage.
A live NFL game was firstly broadcasted with the virtual ‚1st & Ten‘graphic system<, also known as the yellow yard marker that cleary marked actions on the matchfield. The invention displays a yellow line overlayed on the field, so everyone can quickly see where the team just got a first down. As we all know, this system is still in use today, just way more advanced than back then. In 2003 it got enhanced with a feature on the Skycam system that provides aerial views overlayed with virtual graphics.
NASA’s X-38 spacecraft was an AR system to assist in providing better navigation during test flights with displayed map data right on the pilot’s screen.
The first AR Game ‘AR Quake’ was launched, where players wore a head mounted display and a backpack containing a computer & gyroscope.
The very first AR app for the phone was called AR Tennis and could be played by two persons on a Nokia Phone.
2008: AR in commercial Print Ads
BMW was the first automotive company to use AR technologies in a magazine ad to promote the BMW mini as virtual 3D model. When this print ad was held in front of a computer’s camera, the model appeared on the screen. By interacting with the paper as moving it, the user war even able to move around the virtual car on the screen thanks to digital markers on the physical ad. Interaction in real time!
Esquire Magazine used AR to make their magazine come alive and made actor Robert Downey Jr. appear after scanning the cover.
2009: ARToolKit firstly brought AR to browser
The open-source software library ARToolKit founded in 2000 brought AR to browser and paved the path for webAR.
Volkswagen debuted the MARTA app which gave step-by-step repair instructions within the AR service manual showing that AR trainings could be applied to all kinds of industries.
2014: Release of Google Glass
The wearable AR technology worked via internet and voice control enabling to access Google apps as Google Maps, Gmail, and more.
Snapchat implements AR Filters, quickly followed by other social networks like Facebook or Instagram in 2016 and 2017.
The popular location-based AR game by Nintendo and Niantic put AR on the mainstream map.
Microsoft published its version of wearable AR technology with more advanced features than the Google Glass, followed by Microsoft HoloLens 2. The greatest benefit? It allowed users to scan their environment and create own AR experiences.
2017: AR changing the Retail industry
IKEA released an AR app that allows customers to virtually preview their furniture options before making a purchase and encouraged other industries to do the same.
In 2017/18 AR Reality has had its largest boost in public awareness, as both Apple and Google released their own Augmented Reality development kits for the platforms iOS and Android. The names ARKit and ARCore SDK are until today indispensable in the industry
svarmony is one of Europe’s leading technology providers for unique, boundless spatial experiences specialized in the development of AR-based navigation systems and innovative, scalable XR solutions and about the bring the spatial to the world. With three locations we are are experts for Augmented Reality Berlin, AR München and AR Vienna.
and the journey has just begun…