History Of Augmented Reality

What is Augmented Reality?

Augmented Reality is the insertion of interactive virtual objects or information into the actual world. It is very similar to virtual reality but the key difference is the inclusion of reality. One researcher compared ideal augmented reality technology to being like the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in which “…virtual and real objects coexisted in the same space.”1 The term “augmented reality” is attributed to Tom Caudell, a Boeing researcher in 1990, but the history of augmented reality itself stretches as far back as the 1960s.2

The Sword of Damocles and the Birth of Augmented Reality

In the 1960s, the first AR tools were used. They projected simple line drawings onto people’s view. The first Augmented Reality tool was also the first Virtual Reality headset. Known as the Sword of Damocles, it was a simple head mounted display that projected a cube into the viewer’s sight as they moved their head within a small room. It reported the position of the wearer’s head to match the position of the cube so that their perspective of the cube was true to their location in the room. The practice of tracking introduced in that work by Ivan E. Sutherland, who, at the time, was the Director of the Information Processing Techniques Office of the Advanced Research Projects Agency, has become a major aspect of Augmented Reality technology. Ivan E. Sutherland has been called the father of VR and AR technology for his pioneering work on the Sword of Damocles as well as his work in computer graphics that continue to impact the field today.3

AR Tracking

Tracking is the practice of calculating the position of the viewer and ensuring the proper perspective of the augmented reality images. There are two main forms of AR: marker tracking and non-marker tracking augmented reality.
Marker Tracking:
A marker tracking AR system can recognize a series of images that it has been preset for. The ubiquity of cameras through smartphones and other technology has made marker AR relatively accessible.

  • A great example of marker AR is also one of the most well-known applications of the technology: QR codes. QR codes or quick reaction codes are those squares of black and white squares that can be scanned to send someone to a certain website or give them some information. In that case the QR code (a real image) can trigger virtual information (i.e. the website).
  • Other recent examples of marker AR include the recent snapchat update that can project animations over user’s faces that react to their actions by using the face as a marker.

Non-Marker Tracking:
Non-marker tracking is relatively more difficult and requires more information to be processed to calculate what is known as the pose matrix. The pose matrix is used to calculate the position of the viewer in relation to the objects that the AR is trying to act upon. This is necessary in headset AR systems where these perspective of not only the virtual object but the items surrounding them are necessary to compute. This sort of AR has been particularly difficult until recently, but it has arguably more potential than marked AR. This form of AR has been assisted by recent technological advances in more powerful processors and cameras. It has also been assisted by the growth of smartphones because off its use of GPS

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