THROWBACK THURSDAY: That time Google did augmented reality 4 years before iPhone X

One of the most amazing things about Apple is the way they take something that’s 4-5 years old, something that someone else failed at and we all thought we didn’t wanted, tweak it a little bit and all of a sudden it’s the best thing ever.

Take augmented reality. It’s the big buzzword with Apple’s iOS11 and its new phones. If you’re younger you probably experienced this with Pokemon Go, but for the fuddy-duddies among us, let me explain it. You look at your phone, and its camera shows you an image of what’s in front of you. That’s not new. What is new is that the screen also shows you things that aren’t there.

In this demo of an upcoming IKEA app, the chair isn’t real… the app is showing you what the chair would look like in your real room. Get it?

Sounds great but it’s not new. Microsoft’s been playing with the concept for about 18 months, but Google beat everyone to the punch back in 2013. Remember Google Glass? That was augmented reality, just not done well.

As I said in a 2014 article, Google Glass’s most amazing feature wasn’t the images it delivered to its users but the image that its users had with other people. Some pretty “not-safe-for-work” terms were created for the people who wore frames without lenses, and who were presumed to be recording everything around them at all times and silently responding to things only they could see.

To put it mildly, Google Glass was a flop. Its pilot program never went to full term and today the glasses and those who wore them are almost forgotten. Yet, Apple takes the same concept, twists it around so you have to hold your phone up — which takes more effort than wearing glasses– and it looks like it will be the big hit of 2018. Go figure.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.