Augmented Reality Past, Present and Future: How It Impacts Our Lives

Nearest Tube

Can’t stop hearing about it in the news, but wondering what makes “augmented reality” (AR) – the concept of overlaying computerized information, digital pop-up windows and/or virtual reality (VR) displays over real-world scenes and imagery – so exciting? Allow us to paint a picture. Imagine. You walk up to an airport terminal and breeze past the airline check-in. Afterwards, a wireless chip in your smartphone uses biometrics to verify your identity at a checkpoint, then a green arrow pops up and shows you the best path to the gate. When you get there, a blue circle shows you where to sit and helps you avoid the most common congestion points. You wait about five minutes until a soft chime tells you to get in line. The total time between drop-off and take-off: Just 20 minutes.

Nearest Tube
Nearest Tube

In this near-future scenario, just one of many possible applications for the technology, the concept of augmented reality makes air travel more bearable. More than just a series of visual cues, the technology can even combine auditory sensors and other stimuli to make high-tech data part of your everyday life. Like robotics, there’s a visceral and physical representation of the underlying artificial intelligence involved. And with real-world implications that range from expediting everyday business travel to fueling potential military research, facilitating heightened responses in emergency scenarios and powering the world’s most immersive video games, augmented reality will forever change how we think about data and how we process information.

“Augmented reality will ultimately become a part of everyday life,” explains Sam Bergen, an associate art director for digital innovation at the ad agency Ogilvy and Mather. “Kids will use it in school as a learning tool – imagine Google Earth with AR- or AR-enabled text books. Shoppers will use it to see what products will look like in their home. Consumers will use it to visually determine how to set up a computer. Architects and city planners will even use it to see how new construction will look, feel, and affect the area they are developing.”


This year, apps such as Nearest Tube for iPhone (which displays real-time pop-ups alerting users to nearby train stations in London) and Tweetmondo for Android smartphones (which shows the status updates of nearby Twitter fans), offer an early glimpse at how the technology works. Even the unlikeliest candidates such as the US Postal Service, A&E Network, and GE are beginning to show how augmented reality could help us interact with and understand digital content in more interesting ways. Knowing this, it’s not too farfetched to wager that in the not-too-distant future, augmented reality could actually become as integral to our lives as cell phones and Web 2.0 sites in terms of how it enhances reality and integrates with our surroundings.

Of course, there are dangers involved. Relying too much on augmented reality could mean more than just driving into a lake when you follow poor GPS directions. Instead, following the prompts of a software program designed to make your life easier could lead to life-threatening disaster and a new form of hacking and identity theft. Given the tools to make augmented reality part of our lives, there is a potential for sensory overload, and for others to manipulate the everyday real-world feedback we take for granted. Still, in the right conditions, the technology could make our lives less complex and far easier.

Part science fiction, part a reaction to today’s increasingly overwhelming constant barrage of digital content, one thing is for certain, though: Augmented reality is an important step on the road to making technology more understandable and useful.


Is the 5G spectrum harmful to our health? Experts say, 'Don't freak out'

There's plenty of consumer anxiety about radiofrequency (RF) radiation, specifically around millimeter waves (mmWave) used on 5G networks, but is it based in reality? We asked the FDA to give us its official view on the subject.

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.

To be blunt, the Vuzix Blade smartglasses just don’t cut it

We tried out the Vuzix Blade to find out if it’s worth shelling out $1,000 for smartglasses. Are these augmented reality, Android-powered glasses really ready for primetime or just an expensive gimmick that no one really needs?
Emerging Tech

Meet the Icon A5: a high-tech airplane that anyone can fly

Prior to hopping inside the Icon A5's cockpit, I had never set foot inside a single-engine aircraft -- let alone flown one. But thanks to some amazing design and technology, this plane is somehow so easy that I was able to fly it with just…

Blizzard's dismal updates to 'Diablo 3' make 'Path of Exile' the better option

'Diablo 3' season 16, the 'Season of Grandeur,' is live. It attempts to shake up the stale meta-game with a minor tweak, but it falls far short of what fans of the franchise want. Better games like 'Path of Exile' are eating Blizzard's…

How skillful translations helped these Japanese video games gain global appeal

Thanks to their translators, some Japanese games are seeing greater success abroad than at home, teaching players about Japan and its culture in the process.

The history of Battle Royale: From mod to worldwide phenomenon

Battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds’ and Fortnite have become the biggest trend in video games. The genre is also pushing the envelope in Twitch streaming and eSports.

Bringing realism to VR is complex, but these developers found a way in holograms

Making virtual reality feel real is the hardest job of all VR developers. For Awake: Episode One, StartVR used volumetric recording, rather than motion capture, to bring its characters to life like never before.

Mazda Hot Lap Challenge winner to test drive in MX-5 Cup car

Mazda Motorsports and iRacing partnered to find undiscovered talent in the gaming world. Now there’s a winner who has earned a test day in a Global MX-5 Cup car, and a new chance to win in 2019.

Schubert left Symphony No. 8 unfinished. A smartphone’s A.I. just completed it

We all know computers can be used to make music, but can artificial intelligence be used to not only generate music, but complete one of the most famous unfinished symphonies of all time? Huawei has used its A.I. to find out.
Home Theater

From live VR to the stadium beer line, 5G will revolutionize how we watch sports

As 5G prepares to roll out across the U.S., nearly every experience will benefit, including sports. Instant mobile access to blazing-fast internet will change the way we experience our favorite sports, both in the stadium and at home.
Emerging Tech

The next big challenge for Google’s A.I. is a card game you’ve never heard of

DeepMind, the Alphabet-owned deep learning company, thinks the next big challenge in A.I. is mastering a cooperative card game about fireworks, called Hanabi. Here's why it's so tough.
Health & Fitness

My niece lost her hearing. This is a story about how technology brought it back

For people with profound hearing loss, cochlear implants can restore sound. We explore what the procedure entails, how the system works, and take a look at the latest developments from Australian company Cochlear.
1 of 3