We could say that augmented reality had its beginnings no less than at the dawning of ‘900: the writer L. Frank Baum, author well-known for his popular “The wizard of Oz”, in 1901 was the first one theorizing an electronic display that could add data to reality. For many, anyway, the birth of this technology dates to the beginning of the ’60s, when Morton Heilig invented his Sensorama, a machine that could augment reality with visual content, sounds, vibrations and smells.

There are then many other milestones until our days, but we think it’s reasonable to start talking about a real development of augmented reality as we know it around 2008, when for the first time this technology was mentioned inside the Gartner’s Annual Report about emerging technologies. The document predicted a development of augmented reality after at least ten years.

In 2009 were born the first realities joining augmented reality and geolocalization, based mostly on GPS coordinates: we are talking about Wikitude, Junaio and Layar.

It will be from 2010-2011, anyway, that the augmented reality field will finally start to seriously develop, thanks to the growth of the invested budgets and the development of the smartphones’ market. It will be in this period that the software will start reading always more data: starting from barcodes, QR codes and AR markers, they will soon reach image recognition and other advanced methods. These are the years during which some of the biggest player of augmented reality market are born: their names are Blippar, Zappar and Aurasma.
Also, 2010 was the year that another important AR reality was born: its name was Quest Visual and it was an app for automatic translation from a language to another thanks to augmented reality. Does this reminds something to you? That’s right: Quest Visual will be purchased by Google in 2014 and it will become one of the most famous features of Google Translate.

During these last years, the use of augmented reality and the creation of apps related to it have grown, but probably not as much as it was expected: this technology is not yet finding a space in the users’ daily life, not even of the passionate ones. Why? Probably it is because the big companies in this field focused more on the number of big brands they could get experimenting with the new marketing frontiers instead of widening the trend on the market.

Nonetheless, Gartner’s data seems to be confirmed from the previsions: between 2018 and 2019 it seems that the reach of augmented reality mobile market will be around $2.4 billion in revenues.

Imagine you could live in a past era through the evidence it left: buildings, streets, artifacts. If history is your passion, probably you already did and also thought many times: “if only I could have a time machine!”

It seems that now someone passed from the simple thought to the action: his name is Stuart Eve, he is an archaeologist and he’s working on an app for mobile devices called “Dead Men’s Eyes” that could take in front of our eyes and – why not? – all around us, the past. How? With Augmented Reality, of course!

First Eve built a system based on a smartphone, an Arduino microcontroller and a Unity3D application. As a second step, he went through the sites recording his path and ideas, and then he recreated the landscape in a coordinate-based mapping program. Last step: he created the structures and placed them into their proper locations on the map with the Unity3D.

At this point, with just an iPad in the hands he was able to go around and see the past come to life. In the video below, you can have an example of the augmentation of a Roman Fort:

Eve is even more ambitious: he is working on taking to the very place they belonged long ago not just only sight, but also smell and sound of the historical places. This is still a bit to work on, though, but the idea is incredible.

If you are asking yourself: yes, the name of the app is inspired to a book, a short story by M.R. James called ‘Dead Men’s Eyes’ (or A View From The Hill) in which a man uses a pair of old binoculars to view grisly episodes from ages past. Very appropriate, isn’t it?