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  • Writer's pictureShubham Pandey

Augmented Reality Over The Years

Thomas Caudell and David Mizell widely considered as the people who coined the term “Augmented Reality” in 1992¹. They both were the researcher in Boeing and they used this term for the first time when Augmented Reality was getting used in Boeing for assembling of aircraft parts. The conception of augmented reality first occurred during the start of the 19th century. In 1901 Frank L Baum used the concept of augmented reality in one of his novel “The Master Key” which states the use of an electronic glasses which were used by people to maps data, this device was called “character marker”². To some extent augmented reality was achieved in 1957 by a cinematographer and filmmaker Morton Heilig as shown in Figure below.

Source: Sensorama which uses visual, sound, vibrations and smells to enhance User Experience by Morton Heilig in 1957¹.

He developed a Sensorama which uses visual, sound, vibrations and smells to enhance user experience. In 1962 he filed a patent for Sensorama Simulator “apparatus to stimulate the senses of an individual to simulate an experience realistically”. He developed this purely for the purpose of entertainment and gives the user the experience of riding a motorbike through the city of Brooklyn.

Source: “The Sword of Damocles” was the first head-mounted AR device developed by Ivan Sutherland and his team in 1968³

In 1968, Harvard Professor Ivan Sutherland along with his student Bob Sproul developed the first augmented reality device which he named as “The Sword of Damocles”³ as shown in Figure above. The sword of Damocles was a head-mounted device that was hung from the ceiling. The user was able to see computer-generated graphics which were simple wireframe drawing. This makes the user experience an alternative virtual reality. In 1974 Myron Krueger built an “artificial reality” laboratory called the Video place, it combined projector with video camera hat emitted onscreen silhouettes, surrounding users in a very interactive environment. Video place allows the user to interact with virtual objects in real-time. In 1980 “wearable computing” term was coined by Steve Mann who was a computational photography researcher. In 1987 Douglas George and Robert Morris developed the prototype of a heads-up display (HUD) which was used to display astronomical data over the real sky. In 1989 “Virtual Reality” term was coined by Jaron Lanier and finally, in 1990 Tom Caudell coined the term “Augmented Reality”. In 1992 Louis Rosenberg developed one of the earliest functioning AR systems for Air Force widely known as Virtual Fixture. It allowed the military to control the virtually guided machinery to perform the task in remote areas. In 1994 the first AR theatre production was created by Julie Martin. It featured acrobats who danced within and around virtual objects on their real stage. This was the time AR started making its way in the entertainment industry as technology advancement.

Recent Research in Augmented Reality

What would the world look like if we could derive our identity from a more interactive form of communication that merges the digital and the physical?

In 1998 the 1st and ten line computer systems started broadcasting by Sports vision, casting the first down marker during a live NFL game. In 1999 naval researchers started their research on Battlefield Augmented Reality System or BARS. These were the early model of wearable units for the soldiers. In the same year, NASA-X 38 spacecraft was launched using the augmented reality system. They used a Hybrid Synthetic Vision System which overlay the map data to enhanced visual navigation. The year 2000 was a benchmark in the history of Augmented Reality, in this year Hirokazu Kato developed an open-source software library commonly known as AR Toolkit which uses video tracking to overlay computer graphics on a video camera. AR Toolkit is a widely used library for the development of augmented reality and mixed reality product even today. In 2004 Trimble Navigation presented an outdoor helmet-mounted AR system.

In 2008 Wikitude made the first augmented reality-based travel guide for android mobiles. In the year 2009 AR Toolkit brought the augmented reality to the web browsers. In the same year augmented reality entered the printed media sector. Esquire Magazine promoted AR, asking the user to scan the front page which brings Robert Downet Jr Comes live on-the-page. After this AR hardware and software makes the leap towards consumer audiences. In 2013 car manufactures started using augmented reality as the new sage vehicle service manual. A very good example of this was Volkswagen MARTA app which was developed to provide service technicians with a step by step technical assistant to foresee how to perform a specific task on a vehicle in front of them. In the same year, google successfully tested google glass which is multi-purpose augmented reality support. In 2014 Magic Leap announces a large investment of $50M in augmented reality.

ARKit vs ARCore vs Vuforia

In the same year, Google announces shipment of Google Glasses to the customers which actually started the trend wearable AR. In 2015 Apple launched AR Kit which is a software development toolkit for augmented reality for iOS platform. In the same year, Vuforia launched a cross-platform augmented reality software development toolkit which supports 2D, 3D marker-based AR as well as marker-less AR. By 2016 Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality total investment reached above $1.1 billion. In the same year, Microsoft launched the Microsoft HoloLens’s which brought a revolution in this industry bringing mixed reality in every one hand, which in turn open thousands door for innovation and development in this industry.

In 2016 Niantic published Pokémon Go which is an augmented reality-based mobile game on iOS and Android. This game completely changed the way how people think about augmented reality and became a huge success with more than 1 billion downloads worldwide. This game blew the world and earned more than $2 million within 1 week of launch. In 2018 Google launched AR Core which is a software development toolkit that allows augmented reality application development for android.


[1]: Krevelen, D. W. F. van and Ronald Poelman. “A Survey of Augmented Reality Technologies, Applications and Limitations.” (2010).

[2]: The Master Key, L. Frank Baum, Fanny Y. Cory, Bowen-Merrill, 1901

[3]: ’The Sword Of Damocles’, 1st Head Mounted Display, September 11, 2016,3 Rock AR

[4]: Brad A. Myers. 1998. A brief history of human-computer interaction technology. interactions 5, 2(March 1998), 44–54. DOI=

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