Augmented Reality

What is it?

Augmented reality, as defined by Merriam-Webster, 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)".

What platforms do you use it on and what does this involve?

Augmented reality can be used on a variety of platforms ranging from the glass of Google Glass to the screen of your smartphone. Other platforms include various video game consoles that can be found in arcades such as Dave and Busters or Chuck E Cheese. An augmented reality device involves the input of information from reality as through a camera and the alteration (or augmentation) of this information through a program such as a video game or GPS device.


To discuss the history of augmented reality effectively 3 phases are considered.
Augmented reality's first official application by definition was in 1968 by Ivan Sutherland with his project The Sword of Damocles. This Project was created through the development of advanced algorithms and implementation of a head-mounted display. The display was a binocular head mount suspended from the ceiling . The user would change their perspective to change the position of a computer simulated cube. The algorithms this system operated off were compiling vector position, and head movement translation. The hardware consists of head sensors, and a computer to run the simulation. Although rudimentary this proved it could be done.
The next step came in 1992 when Rosenberg Theorized Virtual Fixture ,which is a complex topic but can be summed up by Augmented Reality helping humans complete a task through virtual tools. a real life scenario is If you get lost while driving having a gps feature of the streets would help you find your way. This is a major piece of AR philosophy. Optimization of tasks with AR increases human productivity and allows for additional computational power, and knowledge of the world around us.
Today's tools are used across a variety of technical fields and accomplish many tasks through many hardware mediums. The best example of this technology is the Google glass project . It parallels the First AR project since it is a head mounted system, but the hardware is smaller and the software bigger. Mems technology, an idea proposed by Richard Feynman There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom , are very small microelectromechanical parts through the use of nano technology meaning the engineers can put more parts in a smaller space. These parts send information to a glass panel which acts as a monitor. Software capabilities are only limited by the imagination, with voice active technology, GPS, information, and communication avaliable anything is possible!
"A display connected to a digital computer gives us a chance to gain familiarity with concepts not realizable in the physical world. It is a looking glass into a mathematical wonderland."-Ivan Sutherland

Case Studies

Michael's Case Study
Adam's Case Study
Ryan's Case Study
Brandt's Case Study


Over the few past decades Augmented Reality has progressed from incredibly complex technology with limited accessibility, to technology that everyone has in their pocket. With the widespread use of smartphones and tablets, which are generally suitable augmented reality platforms, comes the possibility of widespread use of augmented reality. This technology is changing fast and with increased interest in the field, fueled by profit from tools like the iPhone, coupled with increased user interest in AR capabilities [camera filters, GPS, and picture information like QR-codes], AR has become an emerging technological frontier.


  • With a rise in the use of smartphones and tablets, comes a rise in the amount of people able to take advantage of augmented reality
  • Additionally, with the mobility and portability of hi-tech devices constantly increasing, it is now more realistic for AR-capable devices to constantly be with us
  • The interest in AR software has been increasing, as capable devices become more available, this increases the amount of investment in augmented reality research and development
  • The rise of digitally downloadable software markets (ex: iStore, Xbox live marketplace, steam, etc.) has made it much easier to download augmented reality software
  • In recent years, there has been a large increase in the amount of Augmented Reality software development kits (ARSDKs) available. Examples of ARSDKs include: Wikitude, Layar, Metaio, and Vuforia.
  • Augmented Reality Markup Language (ARML) has been developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC). This is now the generally accepted data-standard for AR software. Having a set data-standard improves the compatibility of different AR software.
  • The movement from head-mounted displays (basically helmets) to eye glasses has improved the discreetness of the hardware, this makes the hardware more commercially viable.
  • Augmented Reality contact lenses are in development. This will make the hardware almost invisible.


  • There are so many different types of Augmented Reality hardware and software that investment in research and development has been very spread out. This decentralized investment has slowed the progress of individual types of software and hardware as investors are unsure which option is best.
  • An overload of Augmented Reality images can distract and detract from the real world around us.
  • There is still a lot of investment necessary to make augmented reality software/hardware truly commercially viable
  • There are a lot of privacy concerns, especially when the technology is discreet.
  • There is a lot of potential for illegal activities with the technology.
  • How will they make these programs profitable? Ads are obtrusive.
  • How will they make these products socially acceptable?

The Future of AR

Augmented reality is a technology that has only begun to emerge in the common household with the increasing commonality of smart phone users having the ability to download free apps which support augmented reality.

In the last decade, AR has been primarily focused on immersive gaming that teleports users to another world and on vertical applications, such as tethered, interactive 3D training simulations.

The real future of AR hinges on its ability to break out into free space.

While for the common user the extent to which they are able to use augmented reality is limited at their smartphones the future of this is very much in the mould of Google Glass. Competitors have already acknowledged this, and just today (October 24th) Samsung filed to patent a similar technology with augmented reality based glasses. Augmented reality can help in training, such as learning how to weld aided by a 3D environment that tracks user movements precisely.

The future of Augmented Reality rests entirely on the willingness of the public to adopt this new technology. I believe that once it starts gaining popularity, and smartphones become faster and are able to run these Apps with no lag and with real-time tracking then there will be a real pick up in AR. Devices such as Google Glass are entirely based on AR, making an extension of the every day world to enhance the experience of the user. As there have been very few released to the public, we have been forced to form our opinions based on those of others, and there is a good example with one journalist who was able to use Google Glass.

Journalist can't live without Google Glass

In addition to this, the future of gaming could lie in AR. While the military does use AR in training soldiers, there have been companies which have tried to take this into the common household but every one of them has run into the same problem: space. Without a substantial amount of free space the extent that AR gaming can go is limited to what developers can entertain people with while they are standing in a set space.

Is AR the future of gaming?


: L. B. Rosenberg. Virtual fixtures: Perceptual tools for telerobotic manipulation, In Proc. of the IEEE Annual Int. Symposium on Virtual Reality, pp. 76–82, 1993 : full source reference