Augmented Reality has been around for much longer than you may think. The first rendition of this technology started as early as 1968, by a computer scientist at Harvard named Ivan Sutherland (https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-mainstreaming-of-augmented-reality-a-brief-history). His device was called The Sword of Damocles, as it hung from the ceiling in a heavy, clunky, almost creepy fashion. It was the first three dimensional display system that actually worked with a computer program and tracked the movements of a user’s head.
From that point on, as the technology developed it was mostly put to use by the Military. This augmentation consisted only of fixed points in space, meant to communicate information to soldiers, like an overlay placed in front of the machinery they were operating. In 1999, Fighter Jets used data vision to aid in training and in combat.
The first time a company attempted to use AR in the commercial space was in 2008 by BMW. Customers were able to see a mini, three-dimensional model of a vehicle from their phones upon scanning a magazine ad for BMW. In later years, companies like Ikea and Lego would also implement similar tactics. This didn’t really catch on until a couple of years later, however.
Pokemon Go revolutionized the public’s perception of AR in 2016. For anyone who hasn’t heard of this game, the gist is this: the user looks for and captures virtually imposed Pokemon characters that appear based on location. It was a game that garnered the attention of all age groups, from young kids to adults. Though the idea of augmenting reality was in no way new to the entertainment world, this was the first application that found its way into the mainstream. It was an example of how this new technology could be used in a way that was accessible and understandable to a general audience.
The industry has been expanding rapidly ever since. More and more, we are seeing an overlap between physical and virtual world-building for immersive events. There are AR theme parks in the works (Disney is getting extra ambitious here). There’s even AR clothing that you can buy in the form of NFTs.
The wondrous world of AR is not as new as many assume it be. And it’s only growing from here- there is so much wondrous tech to come!
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