Pokémon Go isn’t just the latest mobile gaming hit akin to Angry Birds, it’s also the first experience many people will have with augmented reality technology. While visitors to this year’s Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto may be lured in by all the PokéStops and PokéGyms, some of them will learn more about augmented reality technology at the Augmenting Reality feature gallery.

You might think of Google Glass as an early example of head-mounted technology that brings augmented reality to its users, but the technology goes back to the 1960s. That’s when American computer scientist invented the first head-mounted display system. It wasn’t until 1990 that Boeing researcher Tom Caudell coined the phrase “augmented reality.”

Many of the relics of AR hardware development here are the work of engineer and inventor Steve Mann. The headset you see here provides its wearer with an augmented reality view of the outside world. But if you want to see them, you have to enter a passcode. The University of Toronto professor is a prolific author and inventor in the area of computational visuals and wearable technology.

Today, Mann is the chief scientist of Silicon Valley firm Meta. The company is about to launch its second AR headset for developers.

Developers received easy access to working with AR technology in 1999 with the release of ARToolKit. It was an open source API meant to aid with coding AR applications. In 2004, German researchers brought AR visuals to smartphones for the first time.

In many ways, this exhibit is a celebration of AR finally hitting the mainstream.

In 2016, Pokémon Go wasn’t the only sign that AR has hit full ignition. There was $1.1 billion invested in AR and VR technology this year. A report from analyst firm IDC Canada shows $5.2 billion was spent on AR and VR in 2016. And it’s only going up from here. By 2020, IDC predicts a $162 billion of spending in this area – much of it on head-mounted displays.

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