Is Augmented Reality The Future? | The Past, Present and Future of AR

Aug 6, 2020

If you’re reading this, it’s probably not the first time you’ve heard of augmented reality. Even so, most of you still may not fully understand what it is, or why it’s  important in staying relevant as a company now and in the future.

In this post, you can read about the past, present and future of augmented reality and the steps you can take to ensure your brand is prepared for whatever comes next. 

The Invention of Augmented Reality

1901: The idea of mixing reality with virtuality has probably been around for many years, but the first publication of this thought was back in 1901 by L. Frank Baum. 

You probably know Baum best as the author of “The Wizard of Oz”, but in his book “The Master Key”, he described a world with technology far beyond what was previously imagined. This technology is what we now call augmented reality. 

1990: In 1990 the term “augmented reality” was first used by Boeing researcher Thomas P. Caudell.

Caudell wrote of a display headset — coined the HUDset —  that could be used to help Boeing factory workers visualize virtual instructions for manufacturing purposes in order to save the company time and money on physical training resources. 

1992: The first immersive augmented reality system to actually be developed was invented back in 1992 by Louis B. Rosenberg called Virtual Fixtures

Virtual Fixtures were perceptual overlays used by the U.S. Air Force to enhance the performance of operators in remote locations. 

Through a study using standard peg insertion, Rosenberg found that by using Virtual Fixtures, operators were able to increase performance by 70%. 

1998: Back in 1998, engineer Stan Honey and his Sportvision team introduced the infamous yellow line during a televised NFL game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens on ESPN. This technology — now called the 1st & Ten Line — would garner Honey his first Emmy Award.

In the video below, Vox explains in short detail just how this technology continues to work today. 

2000: Following its progression in the 90’s, it was only a matter of time before the video game industry would find a way to effectively utilize augmented reality for gaming purposes. 

The first game, ARQuake, was demonstrated back in 2000 by Bruce Thomas from Wearable Computer Lab. 

ARQuake was made as an extension to the popular desktop game “Quake” developed back in 1996. With ARQuake, users were — for the first time — able to play augmented reality games outdoors via a wearable computer.

2001: In the 2000’s AR technology continued to gain popularity and unsurprisingly had it’s fair share of obstacles — one of the biggest being the inability to track the user’s viewpoint. 

This hurdle led to the development of an open-source computer tracking system called ARToolKit which used video tracking to calculate the camera’s position and orientation.

ARToolKit was developed by Hirokazu Kato from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in 1999 and was later released by the University of Washington HIT Lab in 2001. 

2008: In 2008 — Tomohiko Koyama (a.k.a Saqoosha), CTO of Katamari Inc. — developed FLARToolKit as a way for augmented reality to be used on Flash Player. He was inspired to develop FLARToolKit after reading an article on ARToolKit in 2007 — it was considered the first web-based use of AR.

2011: In 2011, Blippar launched the first cloud based AR application on Android and iOS focusing mainly on advertising for big brands. 

Blippar’s first big project featured the popular chocolate brand, Cadbury where customers were able to play an augmented reality game triggered off of the candy’s packaging.

2014: In 2014, Blippar created a new platform used on Google Glass which allowed developers to create games that were controlled by the user’s eye movement. This was considered the first use of image tracking.

2015: In 2015, Microsoft announced the HoloLens at it’s Windows 10 event. The headset — known under development as Project Baraboo — was a Windows 10 device using similar movement tracking technology found in the Xbox Kinect add-on.

2016: Perhaps the most well known use of AR is Pokemon Go released by Niantic back in 2016. 

Through AR, Pokemon Go allowed users to view and “catch” various pokemon in their environment with their mobile phones. For many of us, this was the first time we really immersed ourselves in the world of AR and one we likely won’t forget. 

Fun Fact: Seek was created back in 2016 after founders Jon Cheney and Mike Snow created an augmented reality treasure hunting app inspired by Pokemon Go. 

2018: In 2018, Magic Leap released their mixed reality headset — the Magic Leap One — for $2,995 in AT&T stores across the United States.

Magic Leap was founded in 2010 by Rony Abovitz, and received an estimated $4.5 billion dollar evaluation by Forbes in 2016.

2019: In 2019, at a MWC Barcelona press event, Microsoft announced the HoloLens 2, which was made available for pre-order to enterprise only customers for $3500.

In comparison to the original HoloLens, the HoloLens 2 was more comfortable, featured a higher resolution display and had a wider FOV with eye tracking. Of course this is just a small list of the upgrades, but you can read the full comparison list here.

Augmented Reality Today

Today it would be hard to find an industry where augmented reality isn’t used — so instead we’ll look at some of the most commonly known uses and some examples of each.


The most well known industry to use AR is — without a doubt — the retail industry and it’s not hard to see why.

According to statistics, the total percentage of e-commerce sales is estimated to increase from 14.1% to 22% by 2023 and retail brands will be fast to adapt to this change by implementing AR into their business plan in order to help build buying confidence, create a sense of ownership and increase brand loyalty and emotional buying.


Through IKEA’s app — IKEA Place — customers are able to view AR versions of IKEA furniture in their space before making the decision to purchase. According to IKEA, the app has already been downloaded 8.5 million times.

Squatty Potty

Increasing in popularity is the ability to implement augmented reality directly into your website so customers aren’t bombarded with the hassle of having to download an app.

Here we have a video of Seek’s CEO, Jon Cheney, using web-based AR to view Squatty Potty’s Slim Teak directly from their website.


Students are gradually becoming less engaged in the traditional ways of learning and that has left parents and teachers searching for a more effective way to educate.

According to recent research by the Department of Information Systems, the use of AR in education:

  • Increases attention by 31%
  • Increases confidence by 11%
  • Increases satisfaction by 13%

With technology becoming increasingly important in students day to day lives, we will undoubtedly begin to see the usage of AR in education rise.


GeoGebra is a free augmented reality education app that makes learning Geometry and Algebra easy for all education levels.

Star Walk

Star Walk is another educational AR app for those interested in astronomy. With Star Walk, students are able to identify stars, constellations, planets, satellites, asteroids, comets, ISS, Hubble Space Telescope and other celestial bodies in augmented reality.

Seek Education

Released May of this year, Seek Education is the first AR education platform that is completely web-based. With Seek Education, students can view life-size, realistic versions of various educational models directly from their phone, tablet or computer. No app necessary.

Seek Education has multiple subjects such as Anatomy, Art, Biology, Chemistry, History and Science. You can also organize the models by grade level.


Augmented reality is an excellent way for companies to streamline the manufacturing process by increasing productivity and decreasing downtime. It’s also helpful in training new employees before putting them to work with potentially dangerous equipment.


Since 2016, DHL and partners Google, Ubimax and Vuzix have continuously refined DHL’s augmented reality program called Vision Picking.

Vision Picking allows pickers equipped with smart glasses to view where each picked item needs to be displayed on the trolley.

“The Vision Picking Program is DHL Supply Chain’s first translation of what augmented reality solutions can look like for supply chains. The broad spectrum in which the technology can be applied across various sectors is exciting to us, and the potential of this technology for business is still largely untapped. We believe this program is a game changer in how we run our supply chain operations and deliver added value to our customers.”

Markus Voss, CIO Supply Chain


Aircraft Manufacturer Airbus released last year that due to their personal success with augmented reality and Microsoft’s HoloLens — they will be making AR software available to their customers.

Many of the manufacturers utilizing augmented reality have been doing so for years without the general public knowing — and It’s safe to assume that the number of brands using AR technology will continue to rapidly increase with time.

The Future of Augmented Reality

Augmented reality saw an astonishing amount of growth in 2019 and is predicted to be valued at a staggering 27.44 billion by 2025 — a 44.74% increase over the forecast period of 2020-2025.

Some of the biggest brands in the world such as Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, have already invested significantly in AR which only signifies that it will become a huge importance in day-to-day lives.

Here are some of our predictions on the future of AR.

Headsets and Contacts

AR headsets like Microsoft’s Hololens 2 , Google’s Google Glass 2 and Apple’s AR glasses — rumored to be released as early as next year — have paved the way for the increased use of AR now and in the future.

Imagine waking up, and instead of reaching for your phone, you throw on a headset that seamlessly integrates your physical world with your digital world. You can see your schedule for the day, your messages, emails and even watch your favorite morning show all while simultaneously brushing your teeth.

Even crazier is the prediction that headsets will be replaced with the much sleeker and less invasive AR contact lenses. The Silicon Valley based startup, Mojo Vision has already raised a staggering $160 million in funding to develop their Mojo Lens — a smart augmented reality contact lens.

“Mojo Lens is a smart contact lens with a built-in display that gives you timely information without interrupting your focus,” Sinclair explains. “It’s all about elevating your vision by providing information exactly when you need it, all the while letting you look like yourself.”

Saving the Planet

The concerns for our global environment have only increased over time and in the future AR will play a huge part in saving our planet.

Think about it. With the ability to view products at home, there won’t be a need to travel to retail stores. AR also significantly reduces product returns which will also limit the emission of carbon by delivery trucks.

Commuting to work will also be greatly reduced with the use of AR because we’ll be able to input a virtual version of ourselves in meetings and events.


Education may be one of the biggest things to change with augmented reality. With AR, students can be transported virtually anywhere. Instead of reading about the Mayan ruins, they will be able to virtually walk through them creating an experience that is every bit as educational as it is exciting.

Instead of viewing images and diagrams of the human skeleton, students will be able to interact with an AR version and see how the bones fit together and move.

As more studies are done and the technology becomes easily accessible, we will see AR in utilized in most classrooms.


The use of AR in operating room will be invaluable for surgeons when it comes to accuracy and preventing life threatening mistakes. Surgeons will be able to see where bones, veins, and muscles are under the skin without having to make an incision.

Doctors at the Imperial College London have already been using Microsoft’s Hololens to assist them in performing reconstructive surgery and their success will lead to the use of AR in every major hospital in the future.

“You look at the leg and essentially see inside of it. You see the bones, the course of the blood vessels, and can identify exactly where the targets are located.”

Dr. Philip Pratt, Medical Research Fellow at Imperial College


To answer the question if augmented reality is the future, I’d say the statistics tell us everything. The possibilities are truly endless and as research, development and use of this powerful technology continues to grow, it will become — without question — a necessity in our daily lives.

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