No. 56

A Brief History Of Augmented Reality

In light of the recentshutterstock_450423982 popularity of the Pokémon Go game (we are just trying to get to grips with the phenomenon – along with various people it would seem, who have ended up in a number of strange situations in recent weeks whilst playing the game!), we thought we’d take a look this month at the augmented reality phenomenon in general, how it has evolved and some of the potential IP issues associated with this.

You may be surprised to know that the ‘Pokémon Go’ phenomenon isn’t actually the first of its kind. In actual fact, augmented reality has been around since as early as 1968 and it has now captured the minds of over 21 million users! (, 2016)

So, what is augmented reality?

It is an enhanced image or environment as viewed on a screen or other display, produced by overlaying computer-generated images, sounds or other data on a real-world environment. (, 2016).

The first stages of augmented reality development


Ivan Sutherland was one of the first people to incorporate augmented reality into their designs. In 1968, Sutherland created the first head mounted display system. (This device was suspended from the ceiling and the ‘graphics’ were actually wide-frame drawings).


Three decades on, Steve Mann had created the first wearable computer. This was designed to make the eye function as both a camera and a display. Mann filed a patent for this ‘EyeTap’ design in 1998; publication number CA2264973 A1.

Interesting fashion statement! :

Augmented reality in the 21st Century

Many global retailers are reaping the benefits of augmented reality and have been for a number of years.

IKEA launched a virtual reality app for their 2016 catalogue that allows users to choose an item of furniture from the catalogue, and position it in their home. You get to decide whether it looks right in your house before you even step foot in the store – what more could you ask for?!

Hugo Boss brought a whole new meaning to window shopping with their London window display in 2009. This clever ‘game’ was designed to get the public involved with the brand and with the aim of bringing more customers into the store… and it worked!

Designers beware!

Augmented reality may be evolving at a fast rate, but designers should be careful not to incorporate brands, logos or other elements that they do not own into their designs (e.g. in a virtual or augmented reality shopping street), as this could lead them into potential conflict situations as regards third party intellectual property (IP) rights.  If in doubt, it is wise to consult an IP expert at the earliest opportunity.


Murgitroyd’s experts are happy to advise you on patent, trade mark, design or other IP issues relating to virtual or augmented reality – email us at or call us on +44 (0)141 307 8400 and we’ll be glad to assist.