Augmented Reality History

Augmented reality may be a new technology to some, but the term has actually been around since the 1990s. While it is unclear as to when AR was first used, credit is given to Professor Tom Caudell from Boeing Computer Services in Seattle. He was searching for a new way to help the manufacturing process and began to use some virtual reality technology and came up with a complex piece of software that had the ability to overlay the positions of where things in et building process were to be placed.

As this was happening at Boeing, two other teams were making huge strides with this latest technology. In 1992, the first functioning AR system was introduces and was used by the US Air Force. It was known as Virtual Fixtures and allowed for a new method of training for pilots. A second group, now leaders in the field of AR wrote and submitted a paper referred to as KARMA, Knowledge-based Augmented Reality for Maintenance Assistance. This was a team of people from Columbia University that built an HMD that had trackers attached. They were dealing with a standard printer at the time and were able to show people how to load and completely service the machine without ever having to refer to any instructions. The paper was soon cited within the science community.

Up until 1999, Augmented Reality was not widely used or even understood. There were complicated software programs and bulky equipment that was needed. However, things changed drastically when Hirokazu Kato from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology released a unique piece of software called the ARToolKit. This allowed for video capture tracking of real world actions and combined that with interactions of virtual objects. This could all be experienced with simple handheld device like a camera and an internet connection. This lead to what users now see when they access any flash based AR application, all made possible by the ARToolKit.

In 2000, Bruce Thomas from Wearable Computer Lab demonstrated the very first outdoor mobile augmented reality video game. The game was the first to allow players to walk around without the use of a joystick or handheld controller. The first game was called ARQuake and all that was needed was a computer backpack and gyroscopes. This allowed users to simply flip down a head-mounted display and see a completely different view of the game based on their current physical location.

A few years later in 2008, the first AR applications were offered on smart phones, where people all over the world could enjoy the latest technology. The first application was for Android users and it allowed them to use their mobile phone cameras to see different augmentations on the screen indicating points of interest. This was soon offered on the iPhone and launched as a navigation application referred to as Wikitude Drive. New developments are constantly being made as video game companies and software providers are using this form of technology every day to deliver the best and most realistic experiences to any user.


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