Mobile and AR History

The history of media is an incredible story that is still being written. New technologies and innovations are being released as we speak. Portable media dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt when papyrus was invented as an alternative to the outdated tablet inscription (Farman, Pg. 11). April 4th, 1973, the first mobile call was made on a handheld device – a 2-kilo Motorola Dynatac (Ling and Donner, Pg. 42). The first handheld mobile phone was released by Motorola in the United States ten years thereafter (Farman, pg. 17). In a post released on, there were a reported 1.8 billion mobile phones sold in 2013 (Mobithinking, 2014). The nineteenth century was highlighted with the development of the telegraph, telephone and the global system for mobile communication that can be used throughout the whole continent (Ling & Donner, pg. 38).
Now, we have entered the digital age with technology all around us. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the newest trend – wearable technology. We utilize these devices for downloading content and receiving information almost instantaneously. While our devices get smaller, lighter and thinner, the speed gets faster, memory gets higher and the capabilities increase. Our mobile devices have the power to take us anywhere we want to go, both in the virtual world and in reality. With all these apps and maps, what could be next? – augmented reality.

Augmented reality is a technology that provides us with a view that is a mix between reality and virtual reality. Augmented reality, or AR for short, works when someone uses some type of device that is capable of viewing AR-specific content. That content can be activated by mobile devices with augmented reality software installed, or with wearable technology such as Google Glass or Microsoft HoloLens. In terms of mobile devices, someone can take a picture of a certain physical space, then selecting certain content to appear when a user holds their device up to that space. Creating virtual content over physical space adds a whole new layer of creativity for people. If they want to look at something in a new way they can simply create content to appear over that space, adding personalization to an already existing object, no matter how big or small.  In an article written by Tony Liao and Lee Humphreys, they dive into augmented reality and explore what it is and how it is currently being used, and how it can be used in the future. On page 8, Liao and Humphreys interviewed a few people and asked them if the ability to augment things has changed their perception of place. One person that they interviewed Joseph, who started a company that has already created several augmented reality “layers” replied, “Absolutely, I  can now say everywhere I go, if I’m in a place I think about how this could be improved from an augmented reality point of view […] I try to think of other uses but then concentrate on the ones that have more of an impact. (Liao and Humphreys, pg. 8). Augmented reality gives the users the ability to change the way we see things that have already been created. It provides the user with a feeling of power and control because now they can see something virtually however they choose. The architects who constructed the buildings, for example, designed them with the intentions of looking a certain way and serving a certain purpose. But now, anybody can change that, virtually. When asked the same question, Kristin, a New York City artist replied by saying, “Absolutely, I can now say everywhere I go, if I’m in a place I think about how this could be improved from an augmented reality point of view” (Liao and Humphreys, Pg. 8). Augmented reality is adding an entirely new realm of creativity for people to add their own unique personalization to a physical space. If one does not agree with the what they see and what has currently been constructed they can reshape it and customize it just how they want.

Just as history tends to repeat itself, our technology is continuously evolves. When it comes to augmented reality it is not just what you can create and view using your mobile devices, but it is also moving in the direction of wearable eye-technology. Steve Mann, the pioneer computerized eyewear, has been experimenting with this technology for more than 35 years, long before anyone else knew anything about it. Mann had created wearable technology that was so big, clunky and awkward that people would shy away from him when they saw him in the streets. While there are many positives to having a wearable piece of technology on your head, such as providing you with directions on where to go, reading text messages without looking down at your phone, vision enhancement, and even snapping photos with the blink of an eye, there could be an equal amount of negatives. Mann believes that having cameras so close to your eyes can hurt the user’s vision, stating, “My concern comes from direct experience. The very first wearable computer system I put together showed me real-time video on a helmet-mounted display. The camera was situation close to one eye, but it didn’t quite have the same viewpoint. . . . And those troubling effects persisted long after I took the gear off. That’s because my brain had adjusted to an unnatural view, so it took a while to readjust to normal vision.” (Mann, 2013). With most new technologies and inventions there are good, and there are bad. The good will be adjusted and the bad will be fixed. Mann also foresees video cameras being everywhere, and why not? We already have them in our TVs, computers and handful of other electronics. He believes that surveillance videos will be abused less if everyone would start to wear their own video-recording equipment. He stated, “To my mind, surveillance videos stand to be abused less if ordinary people routinely wear their own video-gathering equipment, so they can watch the watchers with a form of inverse surveillance” (Mann, 2013) .This is just another way that augmented reality equipment could be utilized in the near future. And maybe Mann is right. If everyone has their own form of video surveillance on them constantly than perhaps people would be reluctant to commit the crimes and acts of violence that is currently happening.

Augmented reality is an incredible technology with so many ways to use it. It allows for people to be more creative and add their own unique content to a physical space. And it allows people who are wearing that technology to see the world differently, literally. Augmented reality is an amazing technology that is so versatile and has appeal to so many ages and demographics. It assists, creates, entertains, and so much more.

Works Cited:

Farman, Jason. (2012). “Historicizing Mobile Media: Locating Transformations of Embodied Space,” in N. Arceneaux & A. Kavoori (Eds), The Mobile Media Reader. New York: Peter Lang. P. 9-22.

Global mobile statistics 2014 Part A: Mobile subscribers; handset market share; mobile operators. (2014, May 16). Retrieved February 1, 2015, from

Liao, T., & Humphreys, L. (n.d.). Layer-ed places: Using mobile augmemted reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space. New Media & Society, 1-18.

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

Mann, S. (2013, March 1). Steve Mann: My “Augmediated” Life. Retrieved February 1, 2015, from


One thought on “Mobile and AR History

  1. This was a very nice analysis of the connection between mobile history and AR technology. I enjoyed the connection you made from original forms of communication (papyrus) to the first innovators of the technologies that we know today. I also like several connection you made to the changes that our mobile technology as the rapid and major changes that were made. I think it would have been nice to included some external links and our videos to the content your discussed as well as embed some images on the AR technology you were talking about. Overall though, I think this was a great analysis and timeline of the history and provided a wealth of information on AR technology.

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