AR is defined as a system that implements real-time interaction with virtual images or videos in the real world. In other words, unlike virtual reality (VR), which deals with artificially created spaces that virtually nonexistent, it is a technology created by adding various additional information based on real space. According to Haugstvedt and Krogstie (2012), Augmented Reality aims to improve an individual’s perspectives by superimposing virtual objects in the real world in a way that persuades viewers to think that virtual objects are part of the real world. Therefore, the main features of AR are visualisation, annotation, and storytelling.
Genesis & Historical trends in communications media
The first person who speaks to the world about the idea of AR is ‘Lyman Frank Baum’, famous for being the original author of the fairy tale ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ The glasses, called the ‘Character Marker’, which appeared in his fairy tale ‘Master Key’ in 1901, are in the same context as today’s glasses-type AR devices in that wearing glasses simultaneously display the person’s additional information.
In earnest, the word ‘AR’ was used by Tom Caudell, a technician at the airline manufacturer Boeing. In 1990, a study was conducted to improve the airplane manufacturing process, which resulted in the concept of wearable AR devices. At the time, to build the airplane, the large plywood should have been made and used a wiring diagram tailored to each area, but there was a problem that was cost-effective to make certain plywood with wiring information. The method presented by Tom Cordell is an HMD (Head Mounted Display), which displays a diagram of the plane’s internal wiring on the plywood. Under this concept, costs can be saved by reusing plywood, and workers can easily identify where to work on the plane.
Consequently, AR devices were mainly used in military industries such as fighter cockpit, automobile, and aircraft manufacturing industries in the 1990s. Moreover, in the 1990s AR devices not only represented the low performance of HMD, but also were not easy to miniaturize backpack-sized devices needed for operational processing (Wagner & Schmalstein, 2006). However, the biggest features that changed in the 2000s were that PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) performance was to be improved and the handset included various components such as cameras and GPS, enabling hand-held augmented reality. In other words, the iPhone-led smart device offered the possibility of AR more easily and specifically with its portability and accomplished operating system that controls sophisticated sensors.
Moreover, AR devices in the 2010s completely transform the way individuals communicate with the world around them, such as working, learning, and shopping. ‘Pokémon Go’, which appeared in 2016, is a method of displaying and capturing Pokémon on a screen reflected in the device while walking around. The implementation of Pokémon Go was simple, but the act of catching Pokémon was very appealing to the public by giving the impression that it was impossible to see in the real world and an unrealistic world was unfolding before their eyes. Furthermore, it caused significant impacts on the society that unlike existing augmented reality apps, has formed partnerships with companies and created business models for companies by installing an item charging station (pocket stop) at the location.
Applications of Augmented Reality and leading industries of AR
Nowadays, applications of AR can be easily noticeable in our home, workplace, classrooms, and other places where computer technology is utilized. A near-infrared vein finder, weather visualisations, and HUD in vehicles are examples of numerous commercial applications of AR in healthcare, telecasting, industrial sectors respectively. The most familiar use of AR in real-life would be through personal devices such as smartphones. Pokémon Go, a sensational mobile game that combined a game with GPS and AR technologies, achieved successful results in many ways. It not only had grossed more than $4 billion in revenue, but more importantly, it familiarised the technology with the public by enabling players to experience AR in their daily life (Lateef, Chong, Sethi, & Loh, 2018). This showed the possibilities of AR and boosted developments in both the video game and software industries.
Although AR is widely used in different fields of industries nowadays, it was initially implemented in the military for operations and training purposes (Rosenberg, 1992). The army has always been proactive towards applying new technologies as modern warfare is such an evolving subject. Accordingly, AR is still extensively used due to its limitless capabilities and supportive functions in modern combats, such as real-time overlaying for the fighter-jet pilots and heads-up display (HUD) for navigation and aiming improvements for soldiers (Henderson & Feiner, 2011).
It is for sure that AR is an interdisciplinary field that various companies and organisations are interested in due to its complexity and potential. In the past years, both VR and AR have attracted huge IT companies such as Sony, Samsung, HTC, and Google, making huge investments in such technologies, not to mention that Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus for two billion dollars as well (Cipresso, Giglioli, Raya, & Riva, 2018). However, information technology and computer science and engineering are yet expected to be the leading studies of AR. AR is the technology that expands what we perceive in the physical world and allows adding layers of digital information to it. The information and features that interact with the users are all generated and processed by computers with the appropriate use of devices. Cipresso and colleagues (2018) emphasised the role of computer science and noted that AR development “relies on computer science”.
Augmented Reality’s effects in social and cultural terms
The most notable social impacts of AR technology are the applications of AR that can be integrated into everyday life. According to Savela et al. (2020), “Augmented reality (AR) applications have recently emerged for entertainment and educational purposes and have been proposed to have positive effects on social interaction” (p. 1392). For example, a study focused on the case of ‘Pokémon Go’, which is AR games mentioned above, it concluded that promoting social communication and social interaction among people, it shows the “potential for positive behavioural effects such as socialization” (Savela, Oksanen, Kaakinen, Noreikis, & Xiao, 2020, p.1392). Furthermore, AR games, involving ‘Pokémon Go’, can potentially foster individuals’ sociality by allowing users to interact with each other through the option of commenting and answering in a shared space where people can gather together.
The transformative impacts of the rapid growth of AR technology are also identified in the cultural field. According to Jung et al. (2018), “AR is increasingly used in cultural heritage tourism sites for the enhancement of the tourist experience” (p. 1621). Tourists need a lot of information and knowledge to fully appreciate cultural heritage with rich historical, cultural, and architectural components. Furthermore, many historical sites are restricted from access to certain areas for preservation or restoration, which lowers the quality of the experience felt by tourists. (Chung, Lee, Kim, & Koo, 2017). However, using AR applications helps users to improve their cognitive abilities with visualization techniques that overlay digitized virtual information over the perspective of the actual location.
For example, AR can be used to reproduce the events of historical heritage by digitally restoring and to prevent damage to cultural assets from tourists (Haugstvedt & Krogstie, 2012). Therefore, these AR applications provide opportunities to change their way of travel in a way that improves tourists’ historical and geological knowledge and social awareness.
Augmented reality can be seen not simply as one of the many technologies, but as defining how people want to live in the real world and how to design an experience that is meaningful and enriches humanity. In other words, AR allows people to bring concepts or objects that are difficult to imagine or grasp in other ways, and helps to make the invisible visible. Furthermore, the augmented reality, which is being used as a powerful marketing tool to boost various businesses, is rapidly spreading in demand among public institutions, companies, and consumers. Accordingly, watching, listening, and touching the possible reality through the power of AR can stimulate our willingness to welcome and activate positive changes in the world. With its limitless potential, further innovative application of AR is highly expected.
Chung, N., Lee, H., Kim, J.-Y., & Koo, C. (2017). The Role of Augmented Reality for Experience-Influenced Environments: The Case of Cultural Heritage Tourism in Korea. Journal of Travel Research, 57(5), 627–643. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047287517708255
Cipresso, P., Giglioli, I. A. C., Raya, M. A., & Riva, G. (2018). The Past, Present, and Future of Virtual and Augmented Reality Research: A Network and Cluster Analysis of the Literature. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.02086
Haugstvedt, A.-C., & Krogstie, J. (2012). Mobile augmented reality for cultural heritage: A technology acceptance study. 2012 IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR). https://doi.org/10.1109/ismar.2012.6402563
Henderson, S., & Feiner, S. (2011). Exploring the Benefits of Augmented Reality Documentation for Maintenance and Repair. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, 17(10), 1355–1368. https://doi.org/10.1109/TVCG.2010.245
Jung, T. H., Lee, H., Chung, N., & tom Dieck, M. C. (2018). Cross-cultural differences in adopting mobile augmented reality at cultural heritage tourism sites. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 30(3), 1621–1645. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijchm-02-2017-0084
Lateef, F., Chong, Y., Sethi, D., & Loh, C. Y. (2018). Going forward with Pokemon Go. Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock, 11(4), 243. https://doi.org/10.4103/jets.jets_87_17
Rosenberg, L. B. (1992, September). The Use of Virtual Fixtures as Perceptual Overlays to Enhance Operator Performance in Remote Environments. Retrieved from Defense Technical Information Center website: https://apps.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA292450
Savela, N., Oksanen, A., Kaakinen, M., Noreikis, M., & Xiao, Y. (2020). Does Augmented Reality Affect Sociability, Entertainment, and Learning? A Field Experiment. Applied Sciences, 10(4), 1392. https://doi.org/10.3390/app10041392
Wagner, D., & Schmalstieg, D. (2006). Handheld Augmented Reality Displays. IEEE Virtual Reality Conference (VR 2006). https://doi.org/10.1109/vr.2006.67