According to Wikipedia, “Augmented Reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” AR is increasingly being used in the marketing of good and services, in gaming and in culture and education.
Augmented reality is closely connected to the larger concept of “ubiquitous computing”. Ubiquitous computing is the practice of augmenting everyday objects and places with computing functionality. Wireless transceivers and radio frequency ID circuits (RFIDs) allow miniature devices to communicate with one another. The global positioning system (GPS) and cell tower triangulation allow objects like cell phones to “know” their location to within a few metres. Computer-augmented environments can interact with these objects, merging electronic systems into the physical world instead of trying to replace it. “Although the technologies differ,” digital artist and technologist Rich Gold wrote over a decade ago, “they are united in a common philosophy: the primacy of the physical world and the construction of appropriate tools that enhance our daily activities” (Wellner, Mackay, & Gold).
Ubiquitous computing is facilitated by digital technology, but is ultimately not about technology. It is about restoring and enhancing connections between people and their environments (Weiser & Seely Brown).
Read more from two of the many researchers and developers who have informed our understanding of augmented reality and ubiquitous computing here: Wellner, Mackay, & Gold, “Computer-Augmented Environments: Back to the Real World.” Communications of the ACM 36 (7) (1993): 24-26); Weiser & Seely Brown, “The Coming Age of Calm Technology” (1996).