If you’re set on tracking the foundations of augmented reality, the venture could lead you as far back as the early 20th century. Some might say 1957 was a key date when Morton Helig started his Sensorama project, which was designed to bring cinematic experiences to the user. In 1966, the “head-mounted display” or the HMD was invented by Harvard University Professor Ivan Sutherland, but AR, as it’s known today, started its genesis in 1990 when Professor Tom Caudell developed software that could display the position of important schematics on reusable boards during the construction of Boeing, who saw an end to complex manuals. AR remained as a strictly scientific tool until the end of the century when Hirokazu Kato invented ARToolKit in 1999, which enabled the creation of augmented reality applications that implement virtual imagery into the real world.

How Augmented Reality Works

The biggest misconception about AR is comparing it with virtual reality. Augmented reality is an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device (as a smartphone camera), while VR is an artificial world that consists of images and sounds created by a computer and the actions are affected by the person who is experiencing it. The biggest difference is the level of immersion, where VR is based on complete real world simulation that can be explored with certain equipment, mainly HMD. On the other hand, AR brings various computer generated images that are overlaid on various locations or objects within the real world with the usage of everyday technology such as smartphones, tablets, or webcams. If you draw a line between the virtual and real world, you could find AR acting as an upgrade that vivifies reality.

Augmented Reality Today

With the proliferation of smartphones, AR has gained a place in modern urban life but it has yet to reveal its true potential. AR is fortifying its position in the world of advertising, marketing, and entertainment, where its usage is somewhat widespread because of its ability to make connections between brands and consumers more material. Some of the biggest companies have turned to AR in their business challenges, and according to Juniper Research, the AR technology market will reach an annual revenue of $ 2.4 billion in 2019—up from $247 million in 2014. But not all companies have decided to carry out AR projects. Qualcomm sold its AR business Vuforia to the Internet of Things company PTC and it is unknown whether this platform will stay as it was under Qualcomm.

Today, we can distinguish several types of tools that provide augmented reality. Whether you want to add contextual information onto your screen using your device camera or to place 3D models in your real life environment, you can choose between augmented reality apps that serve as browsers or 3D viewer tools.

Besides marketing and entertainment, AR is rapidly integrating into many aspects of modern life, overlaying our perception of the real world in education, culture, science, medicine, and the military. The development of AR apps is taking two paths: general usage for all users, or specific usage created by certain brands. Some notable examples include:

Coca-Cola Germany implementing AR effect in their sales process last year.

Lexus using AR apps to allow customers to browse for car models that are currently not located in store.

AZEK, maker of exterior buildings products, launches an AR app that helps contractors’ choices match with client preferences.

The residents of Netherlands get one of the first augmented reality apps called Layar, which provides various information about scanned area.

What Does The Future Hold?

A huge step into the future was already taken by Microsoft with its massive project called HoloLens. This AR headset will make an impact on every part of our everyday life, during work or in our spare time.

The use of augmented reality holds a very prospective future. Every day a new idea rises with a solution that will upgrade modern life. The automobile industry already began supporting AR effects., such as Jaguar who introduced the 360 Virtual Urban Windscreen concept back in 2014 that projected a “ghost car” on your windshield glass, thus replacing GPS audio instructions.

Considering the inevitable progress that technological revolutions are carrying, we could expect drastic changes in medicine where using AR would decrease the chance of human mistakes, educate patients and doctors about certain conditions, and even minimize invasive surgery.

In the end, AR is possible to integrate into any sphere of life, but examples such as the Google Glass and the burden of living up to its promises should ease our thrill and suggest that progress doesn’t just come overnight.