Augmented Reality and it’s Developing Role in Media History

The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440. (Farman, 12) Before the printing press, people relied on word of mouth, stone carved tablets, and hand-written documents for information. The invention of the printing press allowed for mass production (and distribution) of written media. Up until this time, every form of media was hand-written.

The first working mechanical telegraph was created by the Chappe brothers in the 1790’s. (Solymar 1999, p.22-31) This is important because it improved communication speeds and helped expand the network range. It became faster to transfer messages through telegraph than to have messages delivered by carriers. Similar to the railroads being built across the country, the telegraph, and eventually the telephone, connected parts of the world previously difficult to reach. Alexander Graham Bell was the first person to truly monetize the telephone in the 1880’s. The telephone was not developed into private use or widely popular until the 1900’s. (Goggin, 22)

Alexander Graham Bell’s company, Bell Labs, developed a number of important technologies such as important work on computers, computer languages and software in the aftermath of WW2. His labs experimented with programming computers to switch telephone calls, turn radios on & off, change radio frequencies and automatically connect radios to the telephone system. (Goggin, 26) This was the start of developing computers into multi-use devices that led to family-sized computers and eventually laptops.

These mobile technologies were important in laying the foundations for the telecommunications industry and information society. The printing press, telegraph, and telephone led to the mobilization of ideas. Without these fundamental technologies of the printing press, telegraph, and telephone, Augmented Reality would not be a possibility in the 21st century.

After the telephone, the cellular network and development of mobiles phones has changed the telecommunications industry. In 1969, the cellular system was introduced as a payphone on an Amtrak metroliner between New York City and Washington D.C. (Ling & Donner) The transition from telephones to mobile phones with screens is significant in the development of augmented reality. Augmented Reality is currently used primarily on mobile phones and mobile technology, so AR technology would not have developed yet if mobile phones, computers and wearable devices had not also been developed. Motorola was associated with mobile phones and first-generation cellular telephony in the 1970’s-1980’s. (Goggin, 29) Motorola also had a role in developing computers before this time period.

In terms of the history of Mobile Media, it is important to mention the development of national radio. Radio was a popular form of communication in trucks and cars. It expanded as a platform for citizens across the country to gather information from about sports, politics, and pop culture. Radio as media is important in the overall history of mobile technology. The purpose it served in giving people a deeper understanding of their surrounding society is relevant to Augmented Reality, however, there is not much else in common between radio and augmented reality.

In addition to these three technologies, the most important predecessor to Augmented Reality is the computer. The computer was only briefly mentioned in the Mobile Media Collaborative Timeline. Without the development of the modern day computer, there would be no place in society for Augmented Reality. The availability of computers allowed for the development of new sciences. Originally, computers were called computing machines. Computing machines intended only to process numbers, decode numbers and letters, and complete a variety of mathematic equations. Computers opened up new horizons and possibilities for scientists and the public. Embedded below is part one of a documentary about the invention and modernization of computers.

The commercialization of computers, and mobile phones, allowed for the development of Augmented Reality technology. Augmented reality technology mixes real life experiences with virtual experiences. Augmented reality technology is interactive, 3-Dimensional as opposed to static 2-Dimensional and takes place in real-time instead of requiring prior processing. Using mobile phones with AR technology makes the content and layers available a lot less bounded.

Using the example of LayAR, as discussed by Liao and Humphreys, what this means is that the technology is constantly updating based off of the user’s surroundings to show the user what other people have said and uploaded about their location. The goal is to use the technology to inform people and improve their lives. Embedded below is a demonstration video of the LayAR platform. The user can also add to the layers and content of the app.

Studying emerging uses of AR deepens our understanding of how emerging media may complicate practices, experiences, and relationships in the spatial landscape. Augmented reality technology works to provide users with information based on their location so they may familiarize themselves with the area. This information can help give users a deeper understanding of the place they are in, and it may also help users feel connected within their space. AR technology can also be used negatively to over-advertise products and commercialize everything. It is not widely used enough yet for a clear boundary to be available between acceptable and inappropriate amounts of advertising.


Collaborative. Mobile History Timeline. Retrieved (2015, February, 1) From 

Farman, J. (2012). Historicizing Mobile Media. In N. Arceneaux & A. Kavoori (Eds.), The Mobile Media Reader (pp. 9-22). New York: Peter Lang.

Goggin, G. (2006). Making voice portable: The early history of the cell phone. In Cell phone culture: Mobile technology in everyday life (pp. 19-40). London: Routledge.

Liao, T. and Humphreys L. [2014]. Layer-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space. Retrieved (2015, February, 1)

Ling, R. and Donner, J. (2009). Mobile Communication. Chapter 2, (p. 30-48) Malden, MA: Polity Press.


One thought on “Augmented Reality and it’s Developing Role in Media History

  1. I feel you did a great job outlining the previous mediums for mobile media touching on the major technologies that have lead the way in creating modern day Augmented Reality. Although you moved on to the definition of AR and it’s different uses the only thing that seemed to be missing was the more abstract views of Liao and Humphrey. Even still you did a great job providing all of the background information and enlightening the reader on how augmented reality found its roots and also what different technologies led to its upbringing.

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