HomeBusinessThe Evolution of Augmented Reality - From Gaming to Mainstream Applications

The Evolution of Augmented Reality – From Gaming to Mainstream Applications

Augmented Reality is often viewed as a futuristic technology. However, its roots go back decades. In the 1990s, Boeing researchers created a head-mounted display for aircraft construction workers that replaced the need for large plywood instruction boards.

Esquire magazine used AR in their print media in 2009 and the open-source software library ARToolKit founded in 2000 brought augmented reality to web browsers. Volkswagen debuted MARTA (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance) app that gave technicians step-by-step repair instructions showing the potential of AR for many industries.


Augmented Reality allows digital information to be overlaid on the real world. This information can be virtual (such as the Star Walk app that lets you point your smartphone at the sky and see its names for stars and planets) or it can be real (like the augmented 1st & Ten system developed by Sportsvision for the NFL, which overlays graphics to help television viewers follow play without having to leave their sofas.

AR gaming provides immersive and interactive experiences that gamers love. For example, augmented reality sports games let players use their hands to manipulate virtual sports equipment or virtual characters, bringing a new level of interaction and realism to the game.

Unlike VR, AR is accessible from mobile devices and doesn’t require expensive headsets to be used. This accessibility has fueled its rapid growth. Research continues apace to include AR functionality in contact lenses and other wearables, as well as holograms that can be seen by crowds of people all at once. This could expand the scope of AR beyond smartphones and tablets.


AR is used by many companies to improve product design, marketing, and manufacturing. It also allows workers to see more information about machines, bridge skills gaps, and save time and money. It is used in a variety of industries from aviation to healthcare, and even in military training.

The latest version of augmented reality involves a smartphone that has the camera, GPS, and location-based functions needed to display the overlay. These smartphones use depth sensors, accelerometers, cameras, gyroscopes and light sensors to detect the position of objects and environments in real space. Marker-based AR requires a special marker, such as a QR code or a photo, to activate the display. Projection-based AR uses synthetic light to project visuals on the surrounding environment and can be interactive, such as a projected digital keyboard, or non-interactive, like a holograph.

Other forms of augmented reality include the heads-up displays on fighter aircraft, a system called TAR that mounts onto a soldier’s helmet to help locate other soldiers on the battlefield, and Sportsvision’s virtual 1st & Ten for NFL fans watching games on television. Each of these pushed the boundaries of what AR could do, making it seem more accessible and relevant to everyday life.


Despite the stereotype of AR being only about gaming, the technology has made significant headway in education. Teachers are using AR to engage students and improve learning outcomes. A study involving 171 medical, physiotherapy, and podiatry students showed that the use of AR increased student engagement and improved their grades.

In the field of manufacturing, AR has been used to help workers with assembly and maintenance tasks. The first AR system was developed in 1992 by Louis Rosenberg and was called Virtual Fixtures. The see-through headset displayed textual instructions and diagrams that were overlaid on the machinery being worked on.

The 1990s saw the development of more robust AR systems that could work in tandem with the physical world. Morton Heilig patented the Sensorama in 1995, a headset that overlayed holographic images on the viewer’s field of view. The technology became more robust with the advent of more powerful computers. Then, in 1999, Boeing researchers Thomas Caudell and David Mizell coined the term augmented reality to describe their new navigation software that added runway and street data over live video of the sky.


In healthcare, AR is a powerful tool that enhances the experience of patients and medical professionals. AR can help with everything from surgical training to telemedicine. The technology can also be used to help prevent medical errors.

In AR, a device with a camera scans the surroundings and recognizes an object. It then downloads information about the object, such as instructions or data, and displays it over the image.

The emergence of AR is thanks to a number of developments over the years. One of the first was the heads-up display developed in 1987 by Douglas George and Robert Morris. It displayed astronomical data over the real sky, which helped pilots avoid eye fatigue. In 2000, Hirokazu Kato of NIST, Japan developed ARToolKit, software that captures real-world actions and translates them to communication with virtual objects.

Despite the current privacy concerns, the potential of AR is undeniable. In the future, it may be integrated into everyday life. The success of “Pokemon Go” shows that consumers welcome new innovations like AR and are willing to adapt to them.


As smartphones continue to evolve with faster processors, they can handle the data requirements of more sophisticated AR applications. These are often a combination of augmented reality and virtual reality. The user’s environment and surroundings are scanned to detect their position in space, then digital information is overlaid. This can be virtual information or, as with the yellow first-down line in televised football, text or graphical overlays.

This enables the user to interact with the projected virtual world in real-time. For example, when a restaurant customer uses an app to point their phone’s camera at a menu board, the name of the dish appears in the phone screen along with its price.

Unlike Pokemon Go, which is a fun game with limited practical applications, AR has the potential to transform the way we receive and process information in the real world. In the workplace, augmented reality can enable employees to instantly access a detailed operating manual for any machine on their workstation or connect with a specialist anywhere in the world to troubleshoot a problem.

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