Augmented Reality (Spring 2014)

What is Augmented Reality?


Augmented Reality (AR) is a Metaverse Roadmap technology that uses information to enhance the external, physical world of the individual — put another way, AR integrates the real world and cyberspace. Contemporary AR technologies have focused on harnessing the power of global positioning systems (GPS) and cellular networks to give users relevant information about their environment. Importantly, AR technologies allow people to learn more about the institutions, businesses, and objects around them.

AR technologies run on several different platforms. Specifically, individuals can use hardware like cell phones, tablets, screens, computers, glasses, head-mounted displays (HMD), and even contact lenses to run AR software. According to the Metaverse Roadmap, conventional visual interfaces like mobile phones and navigation screens in cars are likely to be the norm for AR interfaces, at least in the short term. The expected viability of cell phones for rendering AR technologies is significant, given the smartphone's ubiquity and software developers' virtually limitless potential to create sophisticated mobile applications for the marketplace.

Because AR centers on using information to enhance individuals' external worlds, this technology has a broad range of important applications. Education is one industry AR technologies have impacted positively. For example, Google's Sky Map application allows individuals to use their Android smartphone to identify stars and constellations in the sky. Indeed, in the future, AR applications can help kids learn about important educational concepts in fun, interactive ways. AR also has significant applications for business and commerce. Specifically, several AR applications use GPS data from individuals' cell phones to show them prices, ratings, and product reviews from nearby stores and restaurants. In 2009, Yelp became the first company to equip a smartphone app with AR software (known as "Monocle"), which allowed individuals to see Yelp information overlaid onto the real world. Importantly, AR technologies also have applications in medicine and biotechnology. Doctors and medical researchers, for example, are currently investigating how they can effectively incorporate AR into surgical procedures.


Early forms of AR;
In 1957, Morton Helig came up with the Sensorama; a machine which gave a 3D experience to it's viewer, and user could make uses of all of his or her senses. The seats even vibrated. It was meant to be used to view films; however, it was never sold commercially because, it was expensive to make an individual film for the Sensorama.

In 1966, Professor Ivan Sutherland came up with the invention of the HMD (Head Mounted Display). It was too heavy to be supported by a human head, so it was attached to the ceiling of a lab. Since it was an old fashioned form of computer technology, it's capabilities were limited when it came to graphical power.

Modern Day;
Professor Tom Caudell gave birth to modern day AR, while working on Boeing's Computer Services' Adaptive Neural Systems Research and Development project. To help give an environment to engineers in building aviation equipment, he gave virtual reality features to the project.

During this, in 1992 LB Rosenberg created the Virtual Fixtures, an AR system for the US air force. Steven Feiner, Blair MacIntyre and Doree Seligmann - all of whom now lead in the field of AR - submitted a paper on a prototpye system they called KARMA (Knowledge-based Augmented Reality for Maintenance Assistance); an HMD with Logitech-made trackers attached to it and the object they were dealing with a printer.

App Revolution;

Hirokazu Kato of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology released the ARToolKit to the open source community.Hirokazu Kato of the Nara Institute of Science and Technology released the ARToolKit to the open source community; allowed the user to track virtual objects in a virtual world, through a 3D view. Most of the Flash-based AR today is the result of ARToolKit.

In 2000, Bruce Thomas came up with an AR based outdoor video game (the first of it's kind); ARQuake.

In the early 2008's, AR apps were coming to smartphones. Mobilizy brought its Wikitude app to the market, along with Wikitude Drive a navigation app for Iphone and Symbian phones.

Case Studies

Business and Commerce

In 2013, furniture retailer IKEA released a mobile AR application that allows customers to measure how certain products fit in their homes. From an enterprise standpoint, this application is significant for IKEA, given the company found that 14 percent of its customers purchase furniture that doesn't fit their homes. In order to use the service, customers will need to download the iOS/Android application on their smart phones, as well as a special IKEA catalog that helps gauge the appropriate dimensions for the furniture. Please see the brief video below for more information on how IKEA's AR application works.

Google Goggles
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Augmented Reality has the potential to make travel not only easier, but more immersive. The primary platform for AR travel applications is mobile phones and tablets. One of the earliest uses of AR in travel was the use of “pins” to identify points of interest, such as certain chain stores (Starbucks, McDonalds) or tourist attractions. These apps accessed the phone’s camera and placed a “pin” in the direction of the desired location. This family of applications gave rise to the concept of touring cities using a mobile device as a tour guide. These applications, such as Waalkz identify points of interest for tourists and then provide relevant information about these POIs as the tourist sees them.

This technology has also been combined with the activity of Geocaching with apps such as ARnav Geocaching

A newer use of AR in travel that has been developed by Google is the app Google Goggles. With this application, the user points their mobile device’s camera at a foreign text, chooses the desired output languages, and Google Goggles overlays the translated text in real time. This potentially allows tourists to read menus more quickly and also navigate around an unfamiliar city.

Google Glass
Google glass is a wearable computer in the form of a pair of glasses; hence it is a head mounted display. The creators, wanted to give it the some of the same features as a smart phone has. It has attributes of life logging, mirror worlds, virtual reality, and Augmented Reality (AR).

The features show are 'Full Hand Tracking,'Spatial Translation, and 'Spatial Line Drawing.'

Strengths and Challenges


Augmented Reality is set to revolutionize the mobile user experience as did gesture and touch (multi-modal interaction) in mobile phones. This will redefine the mobile user experience for the next generation making mobile search invisible and reduce search effort for users.

Augmented Reality, like multi-modal interaction (gestural interfaces) has a long history of usability research, analysis and experimentation and therefore has a solid history as an interface technique.

Augmented Reality improves mobile usability by acting as the interface itself, requiring little interaction (this Interaction Design technique is known as Direct Manipulation). Imagine turning on your phone or pressing a button where the space, people, objects around you are “sensed” by your mobile device- giving you location based or context sensitive information on the fly.


Current performance levels (speed) on today’s iPhone or similar touch devices like the Google G1 will take a few generations to make Augmented Reality feasible as a general interface technique accessible to the general public.

Content may obscure or narrow a users interests or tastes. For example, knowing where McDonald’s or Starbucks is in Paris or Rome might not interest users as much as “off the beaten track information” that you might seek out in travel experiences.

Privacy control will become a bigger issue than with today’s information saturation levels. Walking up to a stranger or a group of people might reveal status, thoughts (Tweets), or other information that usually comes with an introduction, might cause unwarranted breaches of privacy.


As the range of Augmented Reality applications begins to broaden, the possibilities of its use in everyday life grow quickly. Augmented Reality has thus far been implemented in immersive gaming experience and it has had limited success in advertisement and brand management. The most critical factor in the continued growth of Augmented Reality is the availability of data in common spaces.

As data about the most basic things becomes more readily available and can be processed by portable devices, Augmented Reality will provide a convenient and revolutionary way to interact with the world.


Devices that will be critical for Augmented Reality in taking this next step are those which are already ubiquitous in daily life such as smartphones. This is important, because users are often unwilling to adopt a completely new technology, despite its potential use or novelty.

Public Sector Growth

Another important factor in the growth of Augmented Reality will be funding and partnerships. Although the military has already shown a strong interest in Augmented Reality, investors remain weary about the market for products that rely on Augmented Reality for data input and output. If the military and public sector are able to find useful applications for Augmented Reality that can be translated into civilian life, this proof of concept will likely fuel demand for more products that implement Augmented Reality.