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What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

October 4, 2021

There’s no shortage of acronyms in the world of technology

But one that’s remained common over the last decade is AR or “augmented reality.” In 2016, AR got its moment in the sun when the Pokémon Go app swept the world, becoming an inescapable sensation played by 45 million users at its peak. By pairing GPS and AR, players could locate and capture Pokémon in real world environments from the sidewalk to a retail store to their own bathroom. 

Since then, AR has taken off as people have found new and exciting ways of applying it to navigation, retail, and even surgery — and that’s just the beginning.

What is Augmented Reality (AR)?

AR: A Brief History

The first known instance of AR in Computer Science was in 1968 when a Harvard computer scientist named Ivan Sutherland created a head-mounted display system (though the name “augmented reality” wasn’t coined until 1990). Over the next 20 years, AR development progress was slow, finding applications mostly in aviation simulation. Since then, the industry has experienced exciting developments like:

  • The first AR-dedicated laboratory (1974)
  • AR in theater and entertainment (1994)
  • NFL field lines powered by AR (1998)
  • AR in Esquire magazine (2009)
  • Google Glass wearable AR tech (2014)
  • Microsoft HoloLens AR headset (2016)
  • AR in retail (2017)

Today, technologists, developers, and designers are hard at work to apply AR in innovative new ways from Snapchat filters to U.S. Army training.

AR, VR, MR, XR — What’s the Difference?

Augmented Reality is part of a full spectrum of real and virtual environments, each with its own applications. While AR superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, VR, MR, and XR are slightly different:

Virtual reality (VR)

Source: Google

Virtual reality uses computer modeling and simulation that enables a person to interact with an artificial three-dimensional (3D) visual or other sensory environment. VR applications immerse the user in a computer-generated environment that simulates reality through the use of interactive devices, which send and receive information and are worn as goggles, headsets, gloves, or body suits.


  • Oculus Quest 2
  • Playstation VR
  • Google Cardboard

Mixed reality (MR)

Source: Microsoft

Mixed Reality brings together real world and digital elements. You interact with and manipulate both physical and virtual items and environments, using next-generation sensing and imaging technologies. Mixed Reality allows you to see and immerse yourself in the world around you even as you interact with a virtual environment using your own hands.


  • Microsoft HoloLens 2
  • Holograms
  • US Army synthetic training
  • Varjo XR-3

Extended Reality (XR)

Source: HP

Encompasses the full range of these real and virtual environments, including AR, VR, and MR. XR takes the screen interface we’re used to and modifies it by either immersing you in the virtual environment (VR), adding to or augmenting it (AR), or both (MR). That means if you’ve played a VR video game or used an app featuring AR, you’ve already dabbled in XR.

What Can You Do With AR?

AR is poised to make big strides in the next few years, and it’s already begun seeping into our everyday lives. In fact, the XR industry is projected to surpass $1 trillion in the next 10 years.

How can you snag a piece of the pie?

Learn AR

AR designers and developers are already in high demand as more industries begin to incorporate AR into their products and advertisements. As the need grows, practitioners will be needed to lead the way. XR Foundations courses offer a way to get started without prerequisites — only a passion for technology and eye for innovation are needed.

Boost Your Career

Demand for AR/VR jobs has already surged 1,400%. Plus, these jobs boast salaries 30-50% higher than traditional software engineers. Not only does the world of XR provide a new and exciting horizon to explore, but it provides job security in a field that will only continue to grow.

Drive Innovation

What new areas could AR be applied to going forward? What do we still have to discover? As an AR developer or designer, you could be on the frontlines of the industry, paving the road for future generations of XR users.

If you’re interested in AR?

Considering a career switch, or trying to improve the skills you already have, you need the best training in the field. XR Terra provides the most robust AR training with small class sizes, hands-on experience, and even career services to help you take action on the knowledge you acquire.

Get started today by enrolling in one of our available AR/VR programs to immerse yourself in the growing world of XR.

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