The Ultimate Guide to Augmented Reality

In May of 2014, Google announced that their wearable augmented reality glasses, Google Glass, would be available to the public. Exactly eight months later, Google stopped its production and tentatively set its return date to sometime in 2017. Google Glass was an absolute failure. The glasses costed $1,500, but not even a price tag that high could save the company from major losses. Google X lost over $280 million in 2015 partly because of the lack of revenue generated by the glasses. What happened? Why did a technologically advanced product from a reputable company flop so badly? And why does augmented reality have such a large amount of public support now, only three years later? To answer these questions, one has to understand the path that augmented reality has followed during the past decade.


Google Glass. Regarded as an invasion of privacy and visually unattractive, it failed to garner any momentum in the market.

Some History

The term ‘augmented reality’ was first coined in 1990 by a Boeing researcher named Tom Caudell. Prior to that point, augmented reality was used in very particular industries. The military used AR to create wearable units for soldiers. Sportsvision put a yellow line over football fields during games to indicate a first down. Naturally, NASA was also using augmented reality technology before it was cool. Map data would be overlaid to improve navigation during flights in certain aircraft.

When Caudell first used the phrase, it was meant to describe a digital display used by aircraft electricians that blended virtual graphics onto a physical reality. That definition actually holds relatively well to this day. Today, augmented reality is known as “the interaction of superimposed graphics, audio and other sense enhancements over a real-world environment that’s displayed in real-time”. Whether you’re looking through a cellphone camera or AR glasses, information will pop up on the screen. That can come in the form of helpful tips, directions and suggestions, or it can be as entertaining as dinosaurs and zombies virtually roaming around the streets.


How AR could help you navigate and make decisions. Just by holding your phone’s camera up to the street, you could immediately know what restaurant is the best. 

At the turn of the century, augmented reality was picking up steam. Advancements in AR technology allowed it to become more mainstream. Car manufacturers used augmented reality as a new way to offer vehicle service manuals. The entertainment industry continued to play around with this intriguing technology; Esquire Magazines used AR to allow readers to make their covers come alive using their mobile devices. ARToolkit was introduced to the public, providing the public with an open-source software library. The library has countless tools that enable users to build powerful AR applications, with over 200,000 people using the latest release of ARToolkit to create projects. Its signature features such as camera orientation tracking and optical stereo calibration provided the groundwork for many of the complex applications that are used today.

AR Now

With the explosion of mobile technology, AR now has the chance to gain widespread popularity. And thankfully it is taking that opportunity! In 2016, over $1.1 billion was invested in the research and development of AR and VR technology (virtual reality could have a blog post of it’s own… maybe later!).

Some of the biggest companies in the world are embracing the evolving and ever-expanding technology. Apple introduced ARKit with the release of iOS 11. ARKit is similar to the ARToolkit in the sense that it provides developers a framework to build augmented reality applications. The iPhone X’s TrueDepth camera give some pretty cool opportunities to make AR programs yourself. There have been several noticeably successful apps that were made using Apple’s ARKit, such as IKEA Place and ChessAR. There are even rumors that Apple is testing out AR glasses similar to Google Glass. Hopefully they have a little more luck than Google if they do launch the glasses.

Other companies are also pushing augmented reality to its fullest potential. One of our favorite messaging apps, Snapchat, seamlessly integrates AR into its product. The fun filters that everyone uses are a type of augmented reality. It uses the physical world as a layer on which it can put different animations and designs. The dog filter and Bitmoji performances are simple examples of this technology, but adequately display the logic behind them. The camera must first recognize the surface it must project onto. Then it must track that surface even if there are interferences such as changes in light or distance. At that point, it can project the information onto the surface.


Everyone’s favorite example of augmented reality on Snapchat. 

Examples like these are just the beginning. The innovation of newer and better technology have fueled the possibilities of AR. Smartphones now provide a medium through which everyone can experience an augmented reality. Snapchat is one of the apps that is subtly helping people become comfortable with this fairly new idea, but there was a fad that really got people into the technology: PokemonGO. PokemonGO showed people that we are at a point where AR is feasible and effective. Despite being a simplistic use of AR, the app grew interest in the idea of a new reality combined with our current one.


Gotta catch ’em all. Pokemon are projected into the real world, where you can interact with them.

To The Future!

As I previously mentioned, augmented reality has recently picked up the public momentum it needed. As developers refine the technology and new applications are created, AR will become more prevalent than ever. I can’t see the trend stopping. Augmented reality has the potential to provide so many services that it must keep growing. For example, AR may get to the point where it can provide doctors with accurate diagnoses just by looking at a patient. It could provide people with information about the city they’re walking in as they walk down the streets. AR could tell you information about people as you look at them (think the Black Mirror episode where you can see people’s social media by looking at them, just without the downsides). These ideas may seem far-fetched but they are closer to existence than one may imagine.

Now, Back to Google Glass

To wrap this up, I want to get back to the failure that was Google Glass. Although now it has become a niche industry wear, it failed in 2015 for several reasons. Privacy was one of the biggest concerns. The idea that one could be recorded without you knowing scared a lot of people. It gave Google Glass a bad reputation that it couldn’t shake. Wearable technology also wasn’t mainstream at the time. The public thought it was unnatural and didn’t look good, so nobody wanted to wear it. Combine those factors with the outrageous price and you have a product that won’t fare too well.

With this being said, I believe the future is bright for wearable technology, specifically those that implement AR. The negative perception around wearable tech is slowly fading and as augmented reality gets better, more people will want to use it. Augmented reality has the potential to do great things for society. It’s just a matter of actualizing it.


AugmentGoogle XHistory of Augmented RealityARToolKitSo Much More AR Info

Want sources? There you go! Want to learn more about AR? Comment or feel free to reach out to me! It’s such an interesting topic, I could talk about this for hours. 

9 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Augmented Reality

  1. Great post, Dylan! I never knew that the yellow line to indicate first downs in football was a product of AR. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on what industry you think this could have the most exciting applications and developments for? I am thinking maybe medicine and science, but you seem to be more of an AR expert than I am.

    And I don’t know if I agree with your point that the negative perception of wearable technology is fading. I strongly believe that this will be a huge burden on the sales numbers of AR goggles. It should be interesting to see if Apple can find success where Google failed!


  2. Reading your analysis and conclusion of Google Glass reminded me of the Snapchat Spectacles that @katherinelgold brought in to last week’s class. If they can integrate the Dancing Hotdog and other viral AR filters into the Spectacles, I am sure sales will increase.

    Additionally, given the success of Pokemon Go, do you think the next big mobile games (think Candy Crush and Words with Friends) will all have some sort of AR component to them?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am definitely no expert on AR so this was a cool post to read. In terms of wearable technology, it is interesting to compare the failure of Google Glass to the major successes of Apple Watch, Fitbits, and other similar wrist watch technologies. It seems with every new innovation there is initial resistance and backlash due to privacy concerns (what comes to mind for me is web search and ad targeting). I agree that negative perception of wearable tech will fade, because people get used to the technology and accustomed to the benefits.


  4. Dylan, I really enjoyed your post! I think AR is an area with great potential that hasn’t been exploited very much. Snapchat’s successful use of AR has definitely kept users coming back. The viral images of celebrities wearing dog masks amongst other filters have even served as “free” marketing for Snap.

    Your paragraph about the future of AR was especially fascinating. There are definitely benefits of AR that could make our lives easier. You also raise a great point about privacy concerns. According to the Wall Street Journal, Westerners are particularly concerned about the security of their data. However, in countries like China, people exhibit less concern about data security; perhaps because the government already knows nearly everything about them. For this reason, maybe we could see AR catch on more quickly in Eastern markets. I’m hopeful that benefits of AR will be recognized and harnessed because I think it is an extremely clever technology!


  5. I always thought that current AR was mostly for entertainment purposes, but your post taught me how many potential benefits there are! It made me wonder if AR could advance so much that it would be difficult to distinguish it from actual reality. I certainly hope that is not the case, but I feel like anything is possible in the future.

    Alexandro’s post about the Internet of Things mentioned how the increasing connectivity of devices may lead to security/privacy issues. Do you think it is possible that a hacker would be able to change your AR experience?


  6. Great post to start! I was actually an original owner of Google Glass. My verdict at the times (that is recorded somewhere in The Heights) was that it was certainly the future, but I wasn’t sure it was the Apple Newton (a product viewed as a flop because it was too far ahead) or the Bag Cell phone (a product which seems ridiculous now, but ushered in the mobile revolution). I’m guessing more of the former than the latter, since phones seem to be the real AR vehicle at this point.


  7. Hey Dylan, nice blog post! I definitely was only familiar with AR from Snapchat and PokemonGO and didn’t know much about the subject previously. I am definitely interested in learning more, and as momentum picks up, it can certainly be used in a variety of industries and ways. It is so interesting to envision where as AR evolves it will be implemented next! I like the thought of doctors providing accurate diagnoses, and I am sure there are many other ways it could be used in the healthcare industry as well. I wonder, as it continues to grow, whether AR will expand in entertainment and more practical /beneficial avenues like healthcare or science simultaneously, or will it end up being narrowed down in terms of what fields it is used in.


  8. Fascinating post! AR is often dismissed as a just-for-fun technology as it is overshadowed VR, so it was refreshing to hear your perspective. I wonder if Snap studied Google Glass when rolling out their Spectacles—an external light goes off so people know when you are recording, Spectacles look like normal, trendy sunglasses, and the price point is less than Ray Bans. Since Snap has been working on AR and wearable tech, I can see their logical next step being a version like Google Glass.
    The picture of restaurant suggestions on the street really caught me off guard. I’m not sure if I would love the convenience of a virtual layer of restaurant suggestions, or if it would be too cluttered and distracting. I can imagine an AR world bombarded with advertisements, too.


  9. Great post, Dylan! I won’t lie, AR has always been the emerging technology that has been the least interesting to me. I’ve always only thought of it as cool for silly, often gimmicky reasons, but your post really changed my mind! I found it very interesting that NASA and the military used it for practical reasons. It will be very interesting to see where AR goes next, and if their can be more practical uses found.


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