Augmented Reality has been around for longer than most people realize – believe it or not, the concept has existed for several decades now. The hype around the technology, however, is fairly new. Before explaining the exact differences between AR, VR and MR and why everyone is talking about it, let’s go back a few years and see how it all started.
In 1968, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland created, with the help of his student Bob Sproull, what would come to be known as The Sword of Damocles. A device widely considered to be the first Virtual Reality head-mounted display (in a way, it is the very early predecessor of devices such as the Oculus Rift or Microsoft HoloLens). The device was primitive in many ways. It was mounted to the ceiling (hence its name, as it draws a comparison to the sword that Dionysius had hung above the throne during his reign) and graphics were crude. Nevertheless, the user was able to experience computer graphics elements that essentially made him or her feel as if they were in an alternative reality. This represented an important first step in the new industry.
Virtual Reality slowly made advances in technology. In the mid-70s, Myron Krueger created a project called ‘Videoplace’: a combination of projection systems and video cameras that produced shadows on a screen and put the user in an interactive, virtual environment. However, the actual term ‘Virtual Reality’ was only coined in 1987 by Jaron Lanier, who further researched a range of virtual reality technologies. It was around the same time, namely in 1990, that the term ‘Augmented Reality’ was first used by Tom Caudell, a Boeing researcher – differentiating between the virtual environment of VR and the augmented real world of AR.
However, as with many fledgling technologies the concept was ahead of the hardware limitations of the time. It would not be until the 21st Century that the technology would be made available to people in their own homes and workplaces.