Nokia looks at the history of augmented reality

Augmented reality is both fun and a useful way for software to interact with what's presently visible in the real world. It's advanced technology that really brings hardware to life. A perfect example of use is Nokia's own City Lens app that enables users to look up POI (points of interest) while walking down any given street. All locations are displayed on-screen as the camera is panned across. But where has augmented span from?

Writer Frank L. Baum came up with the idea for augmented reality in 1901, in the story The Master Key. In the book, a kid gets hold of a pair of advanced shades that enabled him to detect whether people he sees are good, evil, wise, foolish, kind or cruel. There's probably going to be (if not already) a Windows Phone app for that, but it's where augmented reality all began.

The blog post over on Nokia Conversations continues down the timeline to 1992 where augmented reality became... well... reality. The US army trialled an AR system in combat vehicles that channelled simulation data between live and virtual players. While focused on weaponry, it was also suggested how the technology may be used in civilian life - be it architectural, manufacturing, training, etc.

Moving on to 2000,ARQuake was announced. The mobile augmented reality game, a spin-off of Quake, was a first-person shooter that used GPS, a unique controller, and a special sensor would enable the player to take a laptop and go onto a run around a real environment pumping virtual bullets into monsters, which were being loaded into the game and overlaying real surroundings. It was an insight into what AR could bring.

It's hitting 2013 and augmented reality is now fully featured in Windows Phones. Nokia is pushing the technology in its services that are offered to smartphone owners. The Nokia City Lens app, as mentioned above, invites users to look at surroundings with places of interest in mind. Whether it be entertainment, cafes, or multimedia Windows Phone would be able to bring the environment to life.

One has to wander what Frank L. Baum would think of smartphones running augmented reality.

Source: Nokia Conversations

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I make use of City Lens every day.
  • Yes, as it is the most innovative app by Nokia
  •   Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)   Happy New Year!    
  • I do the same, making more money using Windows
  • City Lens is a work of art.
  • City Lens is a state of the art technology from Nokia.
  • ...and some blogger from The Verge said city lens is nothing but a good demo app. meaning it's useless!
  • I'll admit that I don't use it. I think I'd feel kind of silly holding my phone like that and walking down a busy street. Of course I live in "Put a bird on it" so nobody would probably notice. :)
    However just cause I don't use it doesn't mean it's not a useful app, I just don't need that app.  
    I hate when Bloggers review things without thinking that way. Does the technology work? Yes. Then review it as is not it's usefulness to you, the individual. 
  • You don't have to hold it up for it to work. You can use the vertical list mode.
  • City Lens is amazing!
  • I tend to use it to charm my iOS colleagues, or when I'm in another town and I need something. Used it last week in Clapham looking for a print shop.
  • Honestly, everythime I'm trying to use this it's asking me to calibrate the compass. It's pissing.
  • That takes 0.5 second, if you just wait..
  • Why don't you calibrate your compass then?
  • So much fun yesterday showing off City Lens to my friends while we were trying to reach a restaurant. They were going the wrong way with their Android and iOS devices.. I took my Nokia and there we were. Their mouth open with a wow..although it was pretty cold out there.
  • Nokia, please update City lens. When i hold up my phone at that hawt school girl hanging out with her friends in a mall i want her phone number, name and status (single or not) appear on my screen. 
  • Dude, what the hell. No.
  • That, my friend, is going to be called Stalker Lens.
  • I had to take a screen shot of these comments lol
  • and mail it to Nokia maybe :D
  • Do you reckon I would get a slap for doing that?
  • I'm pretty sure you'd get a slap just by pointing your camera lens towards her. :P
  • HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! LMFAO!!! I also took a screen shot of that one. TMI.....
  • I want a lens to scan someone what phone they have,if WP it'l show there chat like number to my screen.=)
  • ^Is that english? it a hard understand if you,type not make no sense
  • Kids 5 & under shouldn't comment. WAIT! kids 3 and under shouldn't comment. LMAO!!
  • It would be nice if the compass wasn't arse-backwards in the southern hemisphere i.e. North is South and South is North. It's very frustrating when you're using something like the Star Map or a plain old compass. I don't know if this affects the City Lens, but I wouldn't be surprised...
  • Yes, it does! City lens is all messy in the southern hemisphere!
  • What? That sucks. How could something like a backward compass make it out of test? Is that a common bug, or is it just specific devices? Man, that's just some really poor quality control from a global company. I'm actually shocked Nokia (or even MS, if it's an OS-level bug) messed that up.
  • They just need an "inverse" version for southern hemisphere, or the app should detect location and reverse itself....kinda
  • I'm fairly sure it was fine in 7.0 (or at least in NoDo) when I got my phone... I think it went screwy in Mango onwards. My phone is a HTC HD7, but I've heard reports from a lot of other models so it must be at the OS level.
  • Or perhaps app developers just need to be aware of it and either compensate based on location, or have a setting to inverse it
  • IOS or Android have nothing innovate like City Lens. All they have is. . . Real Fart Sounds app. Scratch that, they have about 400,000 Real Fart Sounds apps.
  • If IOS or Android had City Lens it would be amazing. But since its on a Win Phone it unless. I wish some people would stop being so bias. The Lumia line coupled with Win 8 is the most advanced piece of technology on the market today.
  • I think they already had an ar app before us but for some reason has never caught on
  • I'd like to see this used in tourism. Imagine in a museum or sight-seeing, pull out your phone and you'll see info about a famous statue, etc. If you go visit the ruins in Rome, it will superimpose what the buildings originally looked like, so it feels like you're walking through ancient Rome.
  • I love the City Lens. It has been so very useful during my travels, not just to unkown places but even to places I frequent. Nokia City Lens always surprises me with accurate information of interesting places. I feel like having a super power - seeing through buildings at details the nice restaurant that I would have otherwise missed.
    Nokia has certainly created a new chapter in the Augmented Reality history & am excited to see what comes ahead.