The innovation behind augmented reality not only plays a heavy role in the future development of medicine, digital culture, and the military, but it supplements the advancements made in therapy, education, and business.
With its interdisciplinary nature, augmented reality has rapidly shifted its way to the forefront of the technological world. Unlike virtual reality, which functions on artificially-crafted environments, augmented reality enhances objects of the physical world as a way to amplify and communicate re-integrated information back to users.
The idea behind augmented reality was first seen through Morton Heilig’s research and development, as he aimed to heighten the senses used during cinematic experiences; by 1955, albeit still before digital computing, he debuted his prototype, Sensorama, in hopes that it would create a more vivid and captivating environment at the movie theaters. By the 1960s, Ivan Sutherland patented the first head mounted display (HMD), a device that has been consistently upgraded and is in continual use now.
From Sutherland’s invention onward, numerous tools have been implemented into the world of augmented reality, such as handheld displays and spatial displays. However, most common remains the HMD, which requires users to wear the device on their head in order to view the scientific visualization. They are compatible with video-see-through systems and optical-see-through systems alike, but due to optical-see-through system’s necessity for two cameras, video-see-through systems are typically more in demand; the virtual image thus only needs to be synchronized with the physical world. Handheld displays make use of smaller computing devices rather than headsets, and they use video-see-through systems to overlay graphics. Examples of modern-day handheld displays include smart-phones, PDAs, and tablet PCs, which employ augmented reality for applications such as GPS, accelerometers, and cameras. Spatial augmented reality displays utilize video projectors and tracking technology as a way to present information on the physical world. Because there is no necessity of wearing or holding devices, spatial displays allow and encourage collaboration, ultimately making it a popular option in research and labs. However, because of the essential components of combiners, screens, and holograms, spatial augmented reality displays are not compatible with mobile applications, therefore limiting its use with the general public.