The history of augmented reality

* 3 min read

Augmented Reality (AR) is quickly finding more ways to be utilised by creative minds under big brand names. But what has been the journey of Augmented Reality and how has it landed in our news feeds, on our apps and in our shops?

The roots of customer self scan

Barcodes were developed in 1960's Japan from supermarket cashiers needing a tool to lighten their work load. As the barcode spread around the globe, its limitations were realised. The barcode can only hold 20 alphanumeric characters or so of information, limiting its use. This lead to the technology being developed to fit in a lot more data, the early QR Code was born.

In 2002 the QR code started to be used by the general public in Japan. What sped up this process and ensured that the QR Code was wide spread was the facilitation of QR Code readers in mobile phones. Creating a platform for people to access a website, video, eticket and more.

But Augmented Reality is more than a pointing device, such as a QR Code, it is a method of creating a virtual reality via a seemingly normal and mundane object when scanned with a smart device.

We have discovered the basic roots of AR… so where does that memorable magic come from?

Memorable magic

The history of AR can be traced back to 1990 with various initial uses including a AR manual for a printer and a project for the US Air Force. AR remained in the scientific R&D stage until the end of the 1990’s when the technology advanced enough to enable 3D images to be displayed into the real world.

New uses

Each week we are seeing more and more creative uses for AR. In 2012 Johnson & Johnson created a range of plasters for children featuring The Muppets characters with an AR app. Watch this video to see the results.

We are seeing AR become more and more accepted into the main stream. 7 out of 10 people now own a smartphone ( The UK has the highest percentage of people who make monthly purchases on their phone out of 18 European countries surveyed by Google.

Head of Innovations at Sun Branding Solutions, Mark Eggleton commented:

“AR is not just about creating that WOW factor. AR has real value and is an exciting delivery vehicle for the digital channel. Some Brands are using AR intelligently to assist the consumer with correct usage of their products, others use AR as training tools for field engineers. Think of your digital strategy and I am sure you will find a place where AR can satisfy real business needs. If you can't find the need... use it to WOW!”

McDonalds have created an AR game for this years’ world cup and the beauty retailer Sephora has created the worlds’ first Augmented Reality mirror. The mirror can simulate cosmetics on a user’s face in both real time and 3D. Shoppers are able to try different shades of cosmetics by tapping a palette on screen. Watch this video for a demo.

The future looks fast paced, interactive and full of inventive ways to capture your target audience.

As these few examples show, AR can turn its hand to many industries and can have many uses. We have more information regarding our ability to provide the packaging industry with AR in our innovations page.

If you want to know more about AR and how it could work for your packaging, you can view our Webinars & Whitepapers covering the impact of technology on the way customers shop.