No one could have imagined that they would have the ability to step inside and interact with their favorite music video, like A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’. However, recent advancements in augmented reality technology has opened this opportunity up to the mainstream. Far from being a modern idea, AR has actually been a work in progress for over 50 years. From simple drawings on a computer to 3D graphics you can add to your next video, AR has become a tool for creators to produce a more immersive experience to connect with their fans. To gain a better understanding of this powerful technology, we’re diving into the history of AR to get a better look at where it started, where it is today, and how you can use it in the future to enhance your next project.

1968: Augmented Reality is Born

The story begins in 1968 when “father of computer graphics”, Ivan Sutherland, developed Sketchpad –– a program that could be used in order to create graphic images directly on a display screen by using a hand-held object, such as a lightpen. This was revolutionary because, for the first time, a user could create an object directly on the screen as opposed to entering code on a keyboard. Sketchpad eventually became the “Graphical User Interface” which is still in use today.

1990s: AR Enters the Business World

Fast forward through two decades of research and early AR systems to the 1990’s. This is where early AR developed into a resemblance of what we know today with computer generated graphics overlaid over something real. It began with Tom Caudell, a researcher at the Boeing company who coined the term “Augmented Reality” that year. Caudell used Augmented Reality in order to describe the digital display used by aircraft electricians that would blend the virtual graphics onto a physical reality. A mere eight years later, AR technology made its way into viewers homes during a live NFL game. The broadcast company, Sportvision, casted a virtual yellow first down marker over the first and ten line. Around the same time, NASA also utilized AR in order to navigate their X-38 spacecraft. The agency used a Hybrid Synthetic Vision system to overlay map data which provided enhanced visual navigation during flight tests.

2009: AR Opens for Consumers

Even with so many improvements within AR, the real game changer came in 2009 when the ARToolkit became open sourced online, more and more companies started utilizing the technology. For example, in 2009 Esquire Magazine became the first print media to use AR by having their readers scan the cover to make it come alive with a video featuring Robert Downey Jr.. Innovation in AR continued but was mostly concentrated on wearable technology such as Google Glass or the Microsoft HoloLens. These products ultimately failed because they didn’t integrate well into a user’s daily life. Despite this, some industries found these products to be both revolutionary and invaluable. For example, the automobile industry utilized AR to both repair and build cars with more efficiency. Another industry that befitted for AR was the medical field. Students could use the HoloLens as part of their anatomy lessons in order to get a closer look at the human body. However, the mentality that AR could only be valuable quickly changed when AR was introduced to the mobile phone.

2017: AR As We Know It

As of February 2017, Pokémon Go became the first AR centric app to reach 650 million downloads and can be credited with starting the mobile AR app movement. After the resounding success of Pokémon Go, other apps quickly joined in. For example, in April 2017, Snapchat introduced their new World Lenses which included AR technology which generated graphics in real time using the rear-facing camera lens. Other social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook have also added AR face filters to their platform, imitating Snapchat’s classic filters which enable users to take pictures or videos using AR. This is just the tip of the iceberg though, with the recent release of iPhone 8 (and the upcoming release of iPhone X) more apps that include AR are expected to make their way into the app store. Besides mobile applications, AR can be found in the entertainment industry as well. This brings us back to the A-ha video. The AR remake was created by Chip Sineni and a Chicago-based AR development team at Trixi Studios, it’s remarkable because it grants viewers the ability to enter the comic-book world established in the original music video, for a more immersive experience.

A Look Into AR’s Future

With the current landscape and trends in augmented reality, the future of AR looks bright. Since Apple’s announcement of the new iPhones, which feature the A11 Bionic chip and a built-in ARKit, it’s clear to see that AR has finally been integrated into the daily lives of users. Users can expect to see more interactive apps, like the new NBA app that lets you test your jump shot anywhere, or create videos that incorporate AR. The possibilities of this technology are endless, and as it continues to improve, we’ll be here to keep you in the know.
If you’re looking for a new way to interact with your viewers, try giving AR a shot- we would love to see your first project, so make sure you send it along. Don’t forget to check out our weekly Blogs to learn how you can integrate these advanced techniques to you can stay ahead of the video technology curve.