Two years ago, in 2009, augmented reality took its first steps into mainstream consciousness.  This last year, 2010, we’ve seen augmented reality really expand into new formats and across spectra.

Like I did last year, I’m going to review month-by-month the mishaps and happenings of augmented reality in 2010.  This year the task seems more imposing as there’s a lot more content to cover, even though interest on the technology has plateaued.  And I expect that progress has been exciting, we still haven’t hit the real possibilities that AR has to offer and don’t expect to for another few years.


Already I’m overwhelmed by the amount of available content to choose from for this review.  Even just a year ago, I’m surprised by how much was going on in the month of January.  Also, the tone of the articles are much different than they are now.  People were still getting use to the idea of augmented reality and not quite sure where the technology was headed.  There’s a little more settling in the marketplace and augmented reality isn’t such a foreign phrase now.

Biggest News – The AR Consortium announces ARE2010.  Reading that article makes me wonder if there’s still anything going on with the consortium or has it just become the way to organize the ARE events.

Coolest App / Video – At this point, apps are still far and few between so the early months will be more devoted to the videos.  This video should of no surprise because it garnered a quarter of a million hits.

The latter half of the 20th century saw the built environment merged with media space, and architecture taking on new roles related to branding, image and consumerism. Augmented reality may recontextualise the functions of consumerism and architecture, and change in the way in which we operate within it.

A film produced for my final year Masters in Architecture, part of a larger project about the social and architectural consequences of new media and augmented reality.

Best Article / InterviewAugmented Reality: Pure Hype or The Next Big Thing by Computer World did a nice job of summing up the technology at that point in time.  Additionally, it gave a good basic lesson on AR to those who’d never heard of it before.

Notable Quotes – This one comes from Tish Shute’s interview with Anselm Hook.

When you are mediating the translation layer between the image and the data, then there is an opportunity for you to control it, and that opportunity is hard to resist.  It is hard to choose not to own that opportunity. It is an advertising opportunity. It is a revenue opportunity. It is a chance to send a message and a tone.

I know that Google and companies like that are keenly aware of the kinds of roles they don’t want to hold, but it is sometimes seductive to think about them. And I am afraid that we, as a community, need to assert an ownership, kind of a commons, over how computers will translate what they see to information that we perceive.

Other Notables – Augmented Planet argued the Case Against Augmented Reality, which garnered some philosophical interest but didn’t really lay out a concrete case against it.  Also, AR Drone.


Biggest NewsLayar opens their App Store was pretty big news.  Also, they picked up another $3.4M in funding.

Coolest App / Video – The Recognizr became an actual app which opened up the idea that Your Face is A Social Business Card.  No one has come up to me holding up their smartphone to find out who I am yet, but I suppose it’s still possible.

Best article / interview – Tish does all the best interviews.  Here’s another with Brady Forrest: The Physical World Becomes a Software Construct.

Other notables – The Augmented Planet reviews best practices for AR apps, 7 Ways AR Will Change Your Brain, and Augmented Maps with Photosynth.


Biggest News – Double shot of Metaio here with the Junaio $5,000 app contest and Junaio 2.0 hitting the iPhone app store.

Coolest App / Video – The augmented reality sketching games really captivated a lot of people by ditching markers and letting people create on the fly.

Best Article / InterviewVisual Search, Augmented Reality, and Physical Hyperlinks for Playfulness, Not Just Purchases: Talking with Paige Saez about ImageWiki.  Does Tish ever use a short interview title?  Geez.

It sucks that it is a closed proprietary system, but the App Store has done something for software that nothing has ever done in the whole world. Software is candy now. It’s candy. It is like when you are waiting at the grocery store at the checkout line and you are stuck behind somebody, and you have got all these little tchotchka’s, candy bars, magazines, nail-clippers and things. That is the equivalent of software now. It’s become an impulse buy, which is amazing. Nobody would ever have thought…that is actually revolutionary. That’s huge.

Other notables – This article of mine hit a StumbleUpon feedback loop and blew the doors off any of my previous articles or since – Eye Tracking Will Be The New Click-Throughs;  another one of note is Total Immersion on Sky News.


Biggest News – TechRadar reported that Google Goggles would be opened up to third party apps.  This was big news back then but we haven’t seen much from it.

Coolest App / VideoAugmented driving on your iPhone – the precursor to cars driving themselves?

Best Interview / ArticleHas Augmented Reality Peaked? Rouli Nir asks an important question that is still relevant today and so is the answer.

Other notablesAR Wave at Where 2.0 and The Stark HUD 2020 (fake, but makes me drool).


Biggest NewsOgmento recieves $3.5M in funding as reported by RWW.

Coolest Apps – Two apps stick out to me this month with Gigaputt and ShootAR.

Coolest Video – What’s another year in AR without some magic from our favorite magician Marco Tempest?

Best Article / InterviewBloomberg TV’s 30 minute show about augmented reality.   I swear I’m not partial to this video because during the interview portion with Tish (nice to see her on the other side of the interview table), she’s got her computer open to my website.  Besides 30 minutes of AR goodness, this show is a reminder that AR has moved well beyond the university level.

Other NotablesSixth Sense for Autism and 10 Cool Things Happening Right Now in Augmented Reality.


Biggest News – Obviously the biggest news in June was ARE2010.

Coolest App / Video – A three-pack from the event: Bruce Sterling, Will Wright, and Jesse Schell.

Best Article / Interview – More from ARE2010 with Tish’s interview of Bruce Sterling.

Well, it’s because they are trying to do a different thing than media does.  I mean, they are trying to “augment reality.”  They don’t want you to know that you are using a medium.  They don’t want you to realize that you’re watching computer animation overlaid on some video acquisition stream.  That would defeat the whole point of AR.  It’s entirely different from an analog medium like television, where you turn on the television and there’s a constant stream of station identification alerts.   That’s like: “Don’t touch that dial!  You’re on channel 13!  Stay with us!”  Then it’s like, “And now a few words from our friendly sponsors!”  That medium was engineered to keep your eyeballs locked to a single stream that they’re feeding you.

Other notableDigital Bullets: Is AR a fad or commercially viable.  An interview with various CEOs.


Biggest NewsQualcomm’s 2010 Augmented Reality Developer Challenge.  With $200,000 in prize money at stake for this contest, you can be sure there will be some impressive applications when the results are announced on Feb 14th of 2011.

Coolest App / Video – The augmented reality BP logo hack for the “Leak In Your Hometown” brought forth some interesting questions about trademarks in an AR world.

Best Article / InterviewA Short Interview: Celebrating Layar’s First Year from Rouli.

Other notables – The Great Civil War Project.


Biggest NewsKooba receives $3.0M in funding.

Coolest App / Video – Two times the dystopic vision.

Best Interview / Article – Lester gives his view that AR glasses are at least twenty years away.  I suspect he’s wrong based on some quick Moore’s Law-like math, but we’ll see.

Other notablesVision Based AR from Jay Wright (Qualcomm) and 3 Reasons Why Games Are The Killer App for AR from Ori Inbar.


Biggest NewsThe world’s first augmented reality stamp (okay, so September wasn’t a big month for AR news).

Coolest App / VideoHands On With the Lumus See-Through Wearable Display.  Unfortunately the demo is their helmet version and not a commercial display, but in a year lacking in AR glasses news, I was desperate.

Best Interview / Article – Urban Games, Storytelling with Augmented Reality, The “Big ARNY”, and “Inside AR: Talking with Thomas Alt, Metaio.”


Biggest NewsTonchidot lands $12M in second round funding as reported by Games Beat.  As the year goes on, so does the size of funding.

Coolest App / Video The Sex Offender Augmented Reality Tracker App.  I picked this one for many reasons even though it’s not a great use of AR.  The first is the strange mashup of the viral video guy Antoine Dodson with a serious application.  The second is the implications of the use of data.

Best Article / InterviewIs AR Ready For the Trough of Disillusionment by Chris Arkenberg and Mobile AR is Sexy But Is It Practical by Jack Benoff.

Other notableThe Missing Manual on the Future: Tim O’Reilly’s Four Cylinder Innovation Engine.  It’s not specifically about AR, but it’s an important read.  Google Goggles now available on iPhone ( I probably think this is more important than it truly is since we haven’t seen much from it).


Biggest News – Kinect.  Kinect.  Kinect.  While Layar raising $14M in funding was nothing to sneeze at, the buzz has certainly been about the Kinect sensor.  See the Kinect Hacks site for all the best Kinect news.

Coolest App / VideoAirRaid Social Augmented Reality Game brought us a tower defense game combined with AR and social networking.

Best Interview / ArticleGoogle Goggles Tests Ads Triggered By Your Mobile Camera by TechCrunch.  This article is important because it portents the future of advertising.


Biggest NewsAndroid 3.0 may have a Google built AR app that comes with the OS?

Coolest App / Video – WordLens has garnered almost 3 million views on its video.  That easily gives it the top spot in our apps category for the year.

Best Article / InterviewMost AR Companies Not Doing AR? from Venture Beat.  I’m not a hardcore definition guy when it comes to AR.  IMHO, if it meets the customers needs, then you can call it whatever you want.

Other notables10 Awesome Ways To Use Kinect For Augmented Reality,  AR Tags The Sign Of Apps To Come, and Metaio’s AR Magic Tricks.

What It All Means

I’m absolutely certain I’ve missed a few important items from the year or some just never actually came to fruition (hello Mirascape.)  So if I have, let me know in the comments section and I’ll add it to the list.  Some of the themes I notices as I reviewed hundreds of articles was the lackluster state of AR apps.  While we have tons of AR apps now, most of them, minus notables like WordLens, are pretty blasé.

The other common theme was AR companies receiving significant funding.  The total was around $50M between the various announcements, but I’m certain next year will outclass that number by a couple of hundred million.  Given that investors are bullish on AR, we can feel comfortable that we’ve only seen the beginning.

Did the year 2010 live up to your expectation?  It did for me, barely.  While the software and hardware (Kinect!) made advances, I was thoroughly disappointed by the lack of any news on the AR glasses front.  I even tried to put together a “State of AR Glasses” post, but found a couple of the players avoiding my phone calls and emails.  Oh well, if they’re not ready, they’re not ready, I’m hoping next year is better on that front.

But overall, I’m pleased with the direction the technology is going.  Heck, I even published a book and a few short stories about the fictional use of the technology and will publishing a few more next year, so you can be sure I’m bullish on the technology too.   So here’s to another year behind us and a bright shiny new year ahead, complete with surprises, apologies, and new directions we never even thought of.  Either way, I’ll be here to watch it unfold.


Thomas K. Carpenter

Thomas K. Carpenter is a full time contemporary fantasy author with over 50 independently published titles. His bestselling, multi-series universe, The Hundred Halls, has over 25 books and counting. His stories focus on fantastic families, magical academies, and epic adventures.

  • Can’t wait to see what 2011 will bring. I can’t stand the excitement!!!

    Thanks for sharing.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}