AR the acronym for Augmented Reality is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, providing a composite view.

Augmented reality is often presented as a futuristic technology, but a form of it has been around for decades. The heads-up displays in many fighter aircraft as far back as the 1990s would show information about the attitude, direction and speed of the plane, and only a few years later they could show which objects in the field of view were targets.1

In 2009, the MIT Media Lab’s Fluid Interfaces Group presented SixthSense, a device that combined the use of a camera, small projector, smartphone, and mirror.

Google rolled out Google Glass in 2013, moving augmented reality to a more wearable interface; in this case, glasses. It displays on the user’s lens screen via a small projector and responds to voice commands, overlaying images, videos and sounds onto the screen. Google pulled Google Glass at the end of December 2015.

In January 2015, Meta launched a project led by Horizons Ventures, Tim Draper, Alexis Ohanian, BOE Optoelectronics, and Garry Tan. The Meta (and Meta 2) was a head-mounted display headset using a sensory array for hand interactions and positional tracking, visual field view of 90 degrees (diagonal), and resolution display of 2560 x 1440 (20 pixels per degree), which is considered the largest field of view (FOV) currently available.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are similar but not the same. You could think of Augmented Reality as VR with a foot in the real world: Augmented Reality simulates artificial objects in the real environment; Virtual Reality creates an artificial environment to inhabit. In Augmented Reality, the computer uses sensors and algorithms to determine the position and orientation of a camera. AR technology then renders the 3D graphics as they would appear from the viewpoint of the camera, superimposing the computer-generated images over a user’s view of the real world.

One of the popular and familiar ways AR has is available is through mobile games. In 2016, “Pokémon Go” became a sensation with over 100 million estimated users at its peak, making more than $2 billion.2. The game allowed users to see Pokémon characters on maps and in their real world vicinity.

In 2017, Magic Leap announced the use of Digital Lightfield technology embedded into the Magic Leap One headset and a creators edition headset includes the glasses and a computing pack worn on your belt.

Most notably, establishing massive adoption of AR, in November 2018, Microsoft secured a $480 million military contract with the U.S. government to bring its HoloLens AR headset to American soldiers.


  1. Live Science: What is Augmented Reality?↩︎
  2. CNET: Pokemon Go↩︎
Last updated byseobrien on March 10, 2020
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