The History of Mobile Media and It’s Effect On Augmented Reality

The transfer of information between humans has been around since the beginning of time.  As technology has increased over the years, the ways in which we transfer this information has become more advanced, accessible, and user-friendly. Information has transformed into media, and media has transformed into mobile media. One of the newest developments of this technology is Augmented Reality, which by allows users to mix the real environment with the virtual (Liao & Humphreys, 2014, p.1).  The widespread availability of advanced mobile media technology that we have today would not be possible without the countless number of achievements of inventors and business professionals before us.

The first recorded occurrence of media becoming portable or mobile is when the ancient Egyptians used papyrus as an alternative to stone tablet inscription (Farman, 2012, p.11). This idea of transporting written media is later exhibited by Johanne’s Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1440 (Farman, 2012, p. 12). The printing press, as pictured below, was a great advancement for the distribution of media, as it allowed for the mass printing and distribution of newspapers. Moving forward a few centuries, in 1790, the Chappe brothers created the first working mechanical telegraph (Goggin, 2006, p. 19). The telegraph revolutionized the world of mobile communication, as it allowed information to be transported between two people at a much faster rate and across much further distances. However, as we know, technological advancements did not stop there. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the telephone replaced the telegraph, once again revolutionizing the world of mobile media through new technology. 

Alexander Graham Bell first demonstrated the telephone in 1877. He later founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, or AT&T. After some turmoil and competition with the dominant telegraph company at the time, Bell was able to legitimize his invention in the beginning of the twentieth century (Goggin, 2006, p.20). At first, the telephone was not widely used across the world. The first reliable figures show that there were 10 million telephones in use worldwide in 1910, and the USA accounted for almost 70 percent of these. However, this was only one percent of the US population in 1914 (Goggins, 2006, p.21). Despite such a small amount of the population using telephones when they were first available, usage grew at a rapid rate into the century. In 1922, there were 20 million users worldwide, 50 million in 1939, and 75 million in 1950 (Goggins, 2006, 21).

Although Alexander Graham Bell died in 1922 before he could see the true impact that his invention had on the world, his company, Bell Labs, continued to develop several important technologies. In the aftermath of the second World War, their work on computers, computer languages, and software were the building blocks of a network of mobile telephones (Murray 2001: 18; cf. Bernsein 1984 as cited in Goggins, 2006, p.26). Partners of the company were able to program software to switch telephone calls, turn radios on and off, charge radio frequencies and automatically connect radios to the telephone system (Goggins, 2006, p.26). These technologies made the cell phone possible.

The cellphone is yet another invention that completely changed the way that people transported media. In 1978, AT&T proposed the Advanced Mobile Phone System, which was based on the cellular idea first conceived some decades before (Young 1979 as cited in Goggins, 2006, p.29). In this year, the first commercial cellular telephone systems were trialled, in Bahrain, as well areas of the USA including Newark, New Jersey and Chicago, where the first commercial cellular service was offered (Goggins, 2006, p.29). In 1980, cellular systems were built in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area, where the demand for cellphones became significant (Farman, 2012, p.17). Going into the 1990s, cell phone technology continued to advance. Multimedia, or communication and cultural exchange through text, image, sound and touch, as well as voice began to emerge (Goggins, 2006, p.32). Access to the internet and GPS technology became available for cell phone users beginning in 2000 (Farman, 2012, p.19). There is a lot more complexity to history of the development of the cellphone, all of which has made possible the smartphones most of us use today.

From writing on papyrus as a form of communication to the iPhone 6, we’ve come along way in the world of mobile media and communication. Our country’s consumer culture has bred citizens that always crave the next best thing, or the newest form of technology. As Tony Liao and Lee Humphrey discuss in their article, “Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage,reproduce, and reappropriate public space”, perhaps augmented reality (AR) technologies are the next best thing. The article defines AR as a technology that mixes the real environment with the virtual, is registered in three-dimensions, real-time, and interactive (Azuma, 1997 as cited in Liao and Humphreys, 2014, p.1). Mobile AR technology allows people to see the world in a different way. The leading and most widely used mobile AR application is known as Layar. With Layar, users can downloaded different content layers, such as restaurants and apartment listings, and view that content overlaid on the physical world by pointing their mobile device at a location (Lioa and Humphreys, 2014. p.2). In other words, a virtual representation of a place is super-imposed on the actual place, through the use of mobile technology. The use of AR technology can allows users to reencounter everyday space, and understand the structure of those settings (Liao and Humphreys, 2014, p. 3). Layar is used most widely in urban areas, where it can perform an endless number of functions in order to make navigating around a city easier. For example, it can help users find out which restaurants have the best ratings, while giving them step-by-step directions on how to get there. AR allows users to not only view an augmented version of reality, but to create it as well. In Liao and Humphrey’s study, they followed several creators and artists in the world of AR. Every participant had something different to create. For example, Kristin explains how she wants to create personalized layers to place Darth Vader and Luke Skywaker in her nephew’s bedroom. (Liao and Humphreys, 2014, p. 9). This is just one example of something you can do with AR, the possibilities are endless. Another participant, Tamiko Thiel says, “it allows us to go places that might be physically impossible or risky to go, where we can be free to make statements that transcend boundaries and limitations” (Liao and Humphyreys, 2014, p. 13). The video below is a basic overview of how Layar works.

So, why is there a growing appeal for augmented reality technology? If the history of mobile technologies has taught us anything, it’s that people want technology which makes life easier for them. The telegraph and telephone allowed us to communicate with each other instantly, even halfway around the world. Cellphones later allowed us to send multimedia messages and access the internet in a matter of seconds.  Mobile AR technology takes all that one step further, putting users right in the middle of the a virtual world. From something as simple as directions to the next bus stop, to something as complex as placing fictional movie characters in a child’s bedroom, there’s not much that AR can’t do. As I said before, the possibilities are endless. Augmented reality makes it possible for people to completely change the world around them, catering it to their specific needs. The crave for new technology will never go away, and as of right now, mobile AR technology seems to be the best one in the game.

Works Cited

Farman, J. (n.d.). Historicizing Mobile Media. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from

Ling, R., & Donner, J. (n.d.). Mobile Communication. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from

Goggin, G. (n.d.). Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from

Liao, T., & Humphreys, L. (n.d.). Layar-ed places: Using mobile augmented reality to tactically reengage, reproduce, and reappropriate public space. Retrieved February 3, 2015, from

[Print Photo]. Retrieved from

Layar, worlds first mobile Augmented Reality browser. (n.d.). Retrieved February 3, 2015, from

One thought on “The History of Mobile Media and It’s Effect On Augmented Reality

  1. I enjoyed reading your essay on AR, and you raised some very good points about its appeal and its future in society. I agree with you when you mention our world as the ultimate consumers, and we are always looking for something new to fall into our lap that will hold our attention (until the next big thing comes around). You do speak fairly positively about AR, and while this could be something that changes our world positively, do you find any negatives in this innovation? AR could very well complicate so much, such as communication, informational concepts, and privacy. How do you think it would be integrated within society? That is something interesting to think about. AR is exciting nonetheless, but it might distort the way we see the world altogether. Nonetheless, you had a fine essay, and I am totally wondering what company will end up dominating the AR business and how everyone will use it (hopefully within the decade!).

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