Recently, we noticed that when we tried to explain Assemblr to our friends and family, we lost them at augmented reality. Apparently, people still aren't familiar with AR, which is too bad for such an awesome invention!

That's when we decided we need to cover more about AR itself for the next few posts. And first thing first, today we're gonna talk about how AR has developed over the course of decades.

Decades? That's right! Surprisingly enough, AR has been in the works for several decades before sprouting to what we know today. In fact, the earliest reference to AR was dated aaaall the way back in 1901.

The first recorded reference to AR was in the novel The Master Key by L. Frank Baum. In this novel, Baum introduced the concept of AR, which of course wasn't called augmented reality back then.

Photo: Wikipedia

He described a gift the main character receives from a demon.  This gift was called the Character Marker, which was basically a pair of glasses. When worn, the glasses would show a letter mark on everyone's forehead indicating their character (you'd get an ‘E’ if you were evil 😈). Isn't that basically an AR headset?

Fast forward to 67 years later, the augmented reality started to develop and mature to the form we know today!

So, what is the history of augmented reality? Find out below!

Augmented reality origins

A brief history of augmented reality infographic

1968: The Sword of Damocles, first-ever HMD

In 1968, a Harvard professor and computer scientist named Ivan Sutherland created what he called The Sword of Damocles. He invented this first sort of augmented reality device with his student, Bob Sproull.

The Sword of Damocles is a head-mounted display that hung from the ceiling. The user would experience computer graphics, which made them feel as if they were in an alternate reality. This technology may be considered closer to VR than AR, but it's a start!

The Sword of Damocles, invented by Ivan Sutherland
The Sword of Damocles, which got its name due to its weight.

1974: Videoplace, an artificial laboratory

The next big thing happened in 1974, when Myron Krueger created Videoplace. This project combined a projection system and video cameras that produced shadows on the screen. This setup made the user feel as though they were in an interactive environment.

1990s: The term 'augmented reality' was coined

The 1990s saw faster developments in AR, which is finally called so after a Boeing researcher named Tom Caudell coined the term earlier that decade.

1992: Virtual Fixtures was launched

In 1992, Louis Rosenburg from the USAF Armstrong’s Research Lab created the first real operational augmented reality system named Virtual Fixtures. This is a robotic system that places information on top the workers' work environment to help with efficiency.

1994: The birth of AR-enabled theater production

In 1994, AR was used in theater production for the first time. “Dancing in Cyberspace” presented acrobats dancing in and around virtual objects on stage as a piece of art.

Dancing in Cyberspace, the first AR-enabled theater production
Photo: Sutori

1998: AR in a sport live broadcast for the first time

Have you ever watched a football game on TV and saw the virtual yellow line on the field marking the first down line?

Read also: 5 Ways to Implement Augmented Reality in Sports Industry

In this year, the NFL featured this simple usage of AR for the first time. A variation of this virtual first down marker is now a norm in all televised football games today and is a big part of the augmented reality history.

1999: NASA integrates AR in their X-38 spacecraft

Photo: NASA

In 1999, NASA used a hybrid synthetic vision system that integrated augmented reality in their X-38 spacecraft. The augmented reality technology was used to help improve navigation during their test flights.

2000: An AR software development released – ARToolKit

A huge advancement in the augmented reality technology happened in 2000 when Hirokazu Kato from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan released a software called ARToolKit.

Through this software, users could capture real-world actions and combine it with interactions of virtual objects. The ARToolKit is still used widely to compliment many augmented reality experiences.

2009: Esquire inserts AR into their magazine

In 2009, print media starts using augmented reality for the first time! Esquire magazine prompts readers to use a software on their computers to scan the cover, which will make Robert Downey Jr. come alive on the page.

Robert Downey Jr. as a cover on Esquire magazine's augmented reality issue
Photo: Esquire

2013: Volkswagen released a mobile AR technical assistance

In 2013, Volkswagen provides a virtual step-by-step repair assistance using their app called MARTA (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance). As more industries started using AR, it continues to grow.

2016: Huge investment in AR & VR

In 2016, augmented reality and virtual reality investment has reached $1.1 billion, and that growth is only expected to continue.

2018: A new AR platform from Indonesia released

Yup, you guessed it right! Our favorite content-creation platform that lets everyone create their own AR content was launched in 2018. It's Assemblr!

Video: Assemblr World (YouTube)

Using our platform, you don't have to build a software from scratch to be able to create an AR experience. It saves you a lot of time, and hopefully will kickstart faster development in AR usages!

What's next?

As we can see, augmented reality has the potentials to change and impact so many areas of our lives. It has come a long way since the "The Sword of Damocles" and the possibilities are endless.

Now, what's next? And what will you make out of it? You can start visualizing your ideas with Assemblr now, be innovative, and who knows – maybe you'll be the next name in the history!


In Assemblr, we believe that all people – including you – can create and present your own AR experiences. With an easy-to-use application, Assemblr empowers people to implement AR in any occasion. Interested to unveil more possibilities of AR? Download Assemblr now, available in App Store and Play Store!