A History of Augmented Reality

Sword Of Democles Headset

The Journey of Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) is now more accessible than ever but where did this exciting technology begin? Throughout this timeline, we look at the history of augmented reality and you will see how AR has progressed from a science-fiction concept into its own unique virtual experience.

Sword Of Democles Headset, One of the first examples of augmented reality in history

1968: The Sword Of Damocles

Ivan Sutherland, a computer scientist and future pioneer of computer graphics, created the first head-mounted display called ‘The Sword of Damocles’. Consequently, It was named after the Roman anecdotal story of the same name as it hung on a metal arm above the users head. The purpose of the headset was to create a unique experience with computer generated graphics that enhanced the user’s sensory perception of the environment around them. Furthermore, the head-mounted display is one of the first examples of augmented reality in history.

1975: Videoplace

IN 1975, Computer artist and a first-generation VR and AR researcher, Myron Krueger created Videoplace. Using two rooms, each had one person communicating with the other through projected images. At first, computers were not involved. Experiments were conducted with a projector, screen, and video camera instead. Projected onscreen silhouettes later became a computer generated experience by allowing users to paint, type and interact with animated objects.

The History of Augmented Reality - Nasa Virtual Environment Research

1985: NASA’s Virtual Environment Research

In Moffet Field, California, NASA created the virtual display system and conducted virtual environment research. This headset is revolutionary Virtual Reality technology, and for this reason is an influence on today’s VR headsets. The Virtual Environment Display System is a multi-sensory display environment in which users can explore a full 360 degree view. The headset displayed at medium resolution, using monochromatic LCD screens. Compared to previous headsets, this one required no celling mount and weighed much less than previous designs.

Gloves provided haptic feedback to track data of any hand or arm movement. Moreover, the gloves allowed the user to interact with 3D rendered elements within the virtual environment.


1992: Boeing Aerospace

In 1992, Boeing Aerospace researchers, Tom Caudell and David Mizell coined the term Augmented Reality. Both kick-started the use of augmented reality in an industrial environment by using AR to support the industrial process. Tom Caudell and David Mizell created a head-mounted display with a computer generated diagram of the manufacturing process of Boeing Aircrafts. This was registered into the real-time environment by calculating the users head position.

1994: Dancing in Cyberspace

Augmented Reality entered the entertainment industry in the theatre show Dancing in Cyberspace. Directed by Julie Martin, it featured performers, dancers and acrobats performing with virtual objects. The Australia Council supported this idea to push augmented reality and the performing arts.

History of Augmented Reality - NASA X-38 Spacecraft

1999: X-38 Spacecraft

Created by NASA, the X-38 spacecraft had a built in AR navigation system to assist pilots during their test flights. NASA designed this spacecraft to research the possibilities of emergency crew return. X-38 was the first reusable spacecraft to be built in more than two decades.

2000: ARToolKit

Due to the growth of technology, AR has seen huge developments over the past decade. AR has become more accessible than ever within multiple different industries, and has become a channel for marketing.

Realised in 2000, ARToolKit is AR programming software that helps developers build their own augmented reality software program. Developed by Hirokazu Kato, ARToolKit is an open-source library that AR developers can use. Hirokazu created the software to use video tracking to overlay virtual elements, and as a result, bring them to life in the real world. Significantly, ARToolKit has advanced AR technology into what it has become today.

2005: AR Tennis

With the power of new modern mobile phones, Nokia developed AR tennis. It was created for both the Nokia 6600 and 6630 due to their good quality displays, processing power and camera. Hence, players were able to hit a virtual ball over the net and play against each other. Bluetooth was used to synchronize the movement of the ball between both players’ phones.

BMW Augmented Reality Advert

2008: BMW Augmented Reality Print Advertisement

BMW was the first brand to commercially use augmented reality in a print advertisement to promote their MINI Convertible. Users could scan the advert using a computer webcam. As a result, the car was brought to life by placing a 3D generated model on a 2-dimensional magazine advert. AR tracking technology made this possible.

Snapchat Filters

2011: Snapchat

Snapchat was the first social media platform to incorporate AR technology through face filters. This sparked the popular trend amongst social media users, and face flitters have since became a statement within pop culture.

The success of Snapchat and its face filters have Exposed AR technology to a wider audience. Other social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram soon followed in the face flitter trend. Celebrities such as the Kardashians and Ariana Grande have helped boost the popularity of Snapchat’s face filters.

VW Marta App

2013: Volkswagen MARTA

Volkswagen developed their MARTA app (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance) to give an in depth virtual how-to guide for repairing Volkswagen cars. The technician could access and use the MARTA app on an iPad pointed towards a car. It then displays three-dimensional car parts in real time, whilst also giving instructions for maintenance and repair.

2014: Google Glass

Google revealed their new augmented reality glasses to the world, allowing users to experience AR in a new way. Google combined AR and glasses to create an immersive real world experience for its users. The glasses could be used with multiple Google applications such as Google maps.

Pokemon GO Make Augmented Reality History

2016: Pokémon GO Makes Augmented Reality History

Beloved anime and game duo Pokémon made augmented reality history when they released their mobile app, Pokémon GO. Pokémon GO uses the GPS to locate, capture, train and battle Pokémon, like the original games, but with an AR twist. All Pokémon appear in the real world, at real locations, creating an immersive user experience. As of 2020, Pokémon GO as increased its species of Pokémon from 150 to 600 to fit user demand proving it’s still popular four years after its initial launch.

Ikea Place

2017: IKEA Place

IKEA launched its own AR app which allows users to test IKEA’s products in real time, by selecting a product and seeing how it looks in a room. The IKEA app was first developed using ARKit technology and dubbed IKEA Place. The app is now accessible on Android and iOS devices. IKEA developed the app so that customers can view their products using a true-to-scale 3D model. All of the products are realistically scaled and fit the room’s dimensions with realistic rendering features.

2017: ReBlink AR Art Exhibition

AGO art gallery, Ontario, Canada went public with its own AR exhibition in 2017 called ReBlink. The feedback received from the exhibition was so good, it extended into 2018. The ReBlink experience blends traditional art with AR technology. Therefore, visitors can scan historical paintings with their cameras and watch the art come to life. ReBlink demonstrates the contrast between old art and new modern technology.

2019: 5G Brings AR up to Speed

When 5G was introduced, it was considered to be a major milestone in the AR industry. With its faster wireless mobile technology, this increases speed in which AR interacts with 5G mobile devices.

2020: Augmented Reality in Retail

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the retail industry took a massive hit due to physical store closures. This allowed AR to expand into the retail industry with major retailers such as American Apparel, Sephora and Adidas created their own AR apps for customers to view their products. This new way of viewing and trying on clothing in the AR fitting room allows customers to connect with the business and its products without visiting a store. It’s estimated that the retail AR industry will hit $10 billion by 2027.

You’ve seen AR’s past, lets make it part of your future.