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The History of Augmented Reality

by | Aug 11, 2017

While augmented reality may seem like a technology from the future, it’s actually been in the works since the 20th century. That yellow line on the football field you see on ESPN to indicate a first down? Augmented reality. Over the years inventors and technological geniuses have modified and improved augmented reality to create what we know today. Our work with augmented reality is far from finished, but let’s take a look back at how far we’ve come.


1968 – 1994

The start of augmented reality can be traced back to a man named Ivan Sutherland. He developed the first head-mounted display system to show users wireframe drawings. Later in 1990 a Boeing researcher, Tom Caudell, created the term “augmented reality” to describe a display used by electricians that superimposed graphics onto their surroundings. In 1994 augmented reality made its way into the arts with the first augmented reality Theater production, “Dancing in Cyberspace,” which featured acrobats dancing around virtual objects on the stage.


1998 – 2009  

The “First and Ten Line” computer was first used in the NFL in 1998 to create the well-known yellow line on the football field. Just a year later in 1999 NASA utilized augmented reality to overlay map data over visual from a spacecraft flight test. In 2000 a software library that overlays computer graphics on a video camera was invented. You may know this software as the ARToolKit, as it’s used today to create augmented reality experiences. Later in 2009 the ARToolKit arrived to internet browsers, making augmented reality even more accessible. In that same year, Esquire Magazine was the first to use augmented reality in print media to make Robert Downey Jr. interactive with readers.


2013 – PRESENT

In 2013 car manufacturers started including augmented reality in their service manuals. This included virtual repair assistance and allowed mechanics to see how a repair process would look for a particular make and model. In 2014 Google started the wearable augmented reality trend with Google Glass. Two years later in 2016 augmented reality investments reached $1.1 billion as more companies jump on board to create new augmented reality technology.



At the start of this (not so) new technology, the general population had limited access to augmented reality. Now we have mobile apps that make augmented reality accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Mobile apps like Seek bring augmented reality to the palm of your hand and allow users to go on a real life treasure hunt, and to claim their prize they must open an augmented treasure chest. To learn more about Seek and augmented reality visit our website here.

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