We all love history lessons and then tests, where the teachers can catch us on not remembering the dates. Was it on this specific date or two days later? Whatever! If it was three centuries ago. Will those two days change anything? In times of eras, days seem irrelevant, but still, the tests require us to be precise.
Is the history worthless, you may ask? Of course not. It can show us the mechanisms of formations of occurrences. It helps us understand why something happens.
With augmented reality, it’s evident that the desire to show and feel more was the causative power. We know that we’re limited only by our senses, and the reality that we can witness by them. We are curious creatures, and we would like to experience more. We are also savvy enough to understand that an extra layer of information can give us an advantage over others. So was with Character Maker – a tool envisioned by L. Frank Baum in the book The Master Key (1901). Character Maker were spectacles that allow uncovering humans characteristics, whether someone was good, evil, wise, or foolish. The googles communicate it by displaying the first letter of the feature. It scanned faces and gave the result. The author of Wizard of Oz was way ahead of his time. His invention must have had a machine learning beyond AR. A step further went Polish sci-fi writer and futurologist Stanisław Lem. Mr. Lem imagined many of the things that we use nowadays—starting from audiobooks, e-books, and tablets, through the Internet and search engines, 3d printing, ending on nanotechnology. Among many of his imaginations, one is under our scrutiny. S. Lem named it “phantomatics” (Summa Technologiae 1964). It was a combination of visions and experiences. It was a super-immersive experience that was “injected” directly into the human nervous system. There were no visual inputs needed to project alternative realities. So, we could see and experience something different than people surrounding us by just being exposed to “phantomatics.” This invention could sound a little scary because of the immersion it offered. It worked on multiple realities, and the person leaving the psychical world, needn’t always return to it.
Phantomatics is a little closer to what we call now a virtual reality because it’s creating a new world. Since we are in times where there is no definition of AR yet, and those are vision, we can conclude that at this initial period of technology, the considerations of VR and AR are close. They lead to the fact that we create a new layer of feeling.
The official date of creation of AR is 1968 due to The Sword of Damocles invented by Ivan Sutherland and Bob Sproull. It was “something” that we could call a head-mounted display system. Of course, our head needed connection with the ceiling, because The Sword of Damocles hung from it. Aside from inconvenience associated with connection to the ceiling, this tool allowed us to show virtual information on a psychical world.
Before you proclaim those gentlemen as inventors of augmented reality, we need to travel back and forth in time.
First, let’s go into the future. The term augmented reality was introduced in 1990 by Tom Caudell, a researcher from Boeing. Now, let’s turn over three decades back to 1957, where Mr. Morton Heilig designs the Sensorama. It was an invention related to cinematography that allowed viewers to express visuals, sounds, vibrations, and smells. Mr. Heilig didn’t stop at that; three years later, he developed glasses. He called it a telesphere mask, which looks like today’s VR or AR glasses. Their purpose was to entertain viewers better by acting on a combination of different senses.
The 1970s gave us another material to discuss alternative realities – string theory. In a simplification, it assumes that the Universe we live in is one of many. Here, we are a little closer to vision by Mr. Lem, that exiting one reality could mean no return. But, let’s leave this cosmological topic and focus on augmented reality. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that science is a driving motion of all innovations—especially augmented reality.
We should briefly mention one device from 1974 by Myron Kruger. He introduced a Videoplace – a room which used projections and video cameras. Those projections gave shadows around users and allowed them to feel like they were in interactive surroundings.
Since the 1990s, augmented reality speeded up in the process of development. Of course, it was connected with other inventions, like the internet, mobile phones, and other hardware and software improvements.
AR was present in USAF and NASA. The first introduced what we can call the very first augmented reality system. Virtual Fixtures (1992) placed information on top of the workers’ environment, and gave instructions on how to work more efficiently. The second uses AR to help with navigation. In 1999 pilots were equipped with map data visualization on their screens.
AR was also present in entertainment during the 1990s. Dancing in the Cyberspace (Julie Martin, 1994), as the name suggests, actors were playing with virtual objects displayed on the scenes. A very important for every sports fan addition to tv sports broadcast was introduced in 1998. A yellow line in NFL matches, to show viewers, where precisely the team advanced, where the game stops. Similar technologies are now used in most competitions, like soccer, volleyball, tennis.
A significant event took place in 2009. We could say that AR entered the mainstream. Esquire magazine used images of Robert Downey Jr. in printed media. Thus the pages came alive.
We should also remember about 2000 – not by the Millenium bug – but by the Hirokazu Kato, who ARToolKit, that helped software-developers create their own AR experiences.
Since we are in times that most of us witness in person in one on another reality, we can speed up a little and focus only on very significant milestones. Volkswagen introduces the Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistant that supports technicians in solving malfunctions. Ikea launches its AR app that allows preview furniture at home before buying it. Google and Microsoft introduce AR-glasses. Facebook and Apple are also keen on AR. Instagram and Snapchat are permitting users to use custom AR-filters. And, of course, Pokemon Go – the game that changes everything. Since 2016, when explaining what the AR is, you can ask: Have you heard about Pokemon Go? And everything is clear.
History, like always, should explain the mechanisms that run the action. Here, in AR, they should be a contribution to considerations, how to apply it nowadays. Is there a place for improvements? Are we doing it right? Do we use technology according to its possibilities? Are we selling it correctly? And, most importantly, are we, AR-developers, serving our clients, and their clients in the best possible way?
Because at the end of the day, what counts is: are we helping, growing businesses we serve.
It seems like, it’s time to ask, where to apply AR?
But it’s a story for the next time.
Folks have a good one!