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[MAXST AR Series] 2. The Birth of AR

Updated: Mar 11

[MAXST AR Series]


1. What is AR?

2. From Where to Where is AR Used?

(1) The Birth of AR

(2) The Development and Future of AR Based Technology


3. MAXST AR and its Application

4. SLAM and AR Technologies

5. AR and Related Technologies

It has not been that long since the concept of AR was introduced to us. However, do you believe that a concept called AR has not been that long either? Couldn't a lot of early science fiction writers come up with this fascinating concept of seeing virtual objects? If you thought so, who created the word AR and suggested this way?



The Birth of AR

▲ An American writer Lyman Frank Baum, famous for The Wizard of OZ


You might not be familiar if you hear only the name, but if you hear the name of the author, you might know him. Lyman Frank Baum of "The Wizard of Oz", whom we are so familiar with, seems to be the first to mention the concept. Lyman Frank Baum's 1901 book, “The Master Key” contains the following verse:

▲The Master Key


"I'll give you a Character Marker. These are the glasses.

While wearing these glasses, everyone you meet will have a character on their heads that reveals their personality.

Good people are G (good), bad people are E (evil). W(wise) for the wise, F(foolish) for the stupid.

A kind person is K (kind), and a cruel person is C (cruel).

You will now know immediately the true nature of the person you meet."


[Put on glasses, and the glasses will show you information of the subject, on the subject]

I even feel that this is explaining the smart glasses themselves. It would not have been easy to imagine this in 1901. However, unfortunately, it was still an area of ​​fantasy, not an area of ​​technical challenges. Frank Baum was not a sci-fi novelist in the first place, and that character marker was not a great machine or any technical product. It was just a magical thing the devil gave to the boy, like a tin woodcutter's tin heart.

The above explanation looks like a description of HUD (Head-Up Display). HUD was first commercialized in relatively early 1958 due to its technical ease and strong demand for military purposes for fighter pilots. However, the difficulty of the HUD, which only displays information on the LCD, and the AR, which must accompany the machine's perception of the reality, were too different, and the first known AR system appeared in 1991.


Virtual Fixtures,1992

▲Virtual Fixtures By GardenM - own work, CC BY-SA 4.0


Named “Virtual Fixtures,” this first AR system is associated with the Air Force, just like the Head-up display. “Virtual Fixtures” were developed by the US Air Force Laboratory. It was developed with a focus on improving operator's ability in remote control. Even the name of the paper is "Use of visually overlaid virtual objects to enhance the capabilities of workers in a remote environment".


After all, AR, which is widely known in general, is mainly in the entertainment field, but in reality it can be said that AR has been born for worker efficiency since the early 90s.

▲ Virtual Fixtures' original text


From the title of the document, it is talking about its purpose. “Visually, something was overlaid to improve the efficiency of the worker.” It was not a system for AR, it was developed to enhance capabilities, and it was AR! It is fascinating even now that AR has become somewhat popular. Even nowadays, AR is receiving the most attention in reinforcing workers' learning and improving work skills.


▲ Suggesting the concept of early AR - Myron Kruger’s book

Interestingly, the word augmented reality is not used in this paper. It explains by solving the principle that it was just perceptually overlaying virtual fixtures. This is because the word augmented reality has not yet been popularized. In fact, some early augmented reality concepts that came out before this study also use words such as Artificial Reality. Like artificial intelligence, it is artificial reality. In some ways, Artificial Reality is more touching than the word Augmented Reality.



Augmented Reality


Virtual Fixture was in 1992, and up to that time the word Augmented Reality was not famous. However, the word Augmented Reality is said to have been made by Professor Thomas Caudell of the University of New Mexico, while he was working at Boeing in 1990. The paper (Augmented reality: An application of heads-up display technology to manual manufacturing processes) was published in 1992. The paper says this.

▲ Drill Here - It clearly shows the use of the initial concept of AR


The technology that provides an interface to access information in this way is Head Tracking and It is a heads-up display headset (we call it “HUDset”) combined with a place registration system. This technology is used to visually “augment” the information needed for the work being performed. Hence, we call this technology “augmented reality”.


Augmented reality: An application of heads-up display technology to manual manufacturing processes


When Professor Caudell was employed at Boeing, the technology used to visually augment the information needed for the work he was carrying out was referred to as augmented reality. In his introduction, Professor Caudell makes it clear that the burden of assembly and maintenance costs due to the enormous complexity of the aircraft is the motivation for the development. The Boeing 747 has about 5 million parts, because it cannot be automated in various processes such as maintenance/production, so it has to rely on humans.


I do not know if the program he developed was actually used, but 30 years later, aircraft still depend on human hands differently from cars.


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