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Augmented Reality: Future Technology Here Today

As a member of Div. 46 and a self-admitted tech junkie, no single technology has captured my attention more in the last several years than Augmented Reality (AR).  This exciting technology displays real-time information over live camera images through the use of a smart phone, tablet, computer, or television, and in the near future, through eyeglasses and contact lenses!  It is a technology that many have seen but may not be familiar with. Have you watched a football game on TV lately?  That little yellow first down line shown on the field to help us follow the game is not really there.  It is a digital overlay, or an AR display, that can only be seen on TV.  Other examples of AR include the vision of the Terminator and Iron Man movie characters, or heads-up displays in airplane cockpits.

AR, a potentially powerful technology, utilizes geolocation and visual imagery to provide a real-time data experience for users.  It is a technology being rapidly developed and used for entertainment, business, marketing, art, social networking, and activism.  This technology also shows great promise for use in therapeutic settings.  While few investigations have been conducted on AR, the effects on users are clear:  AR is attention-grabbing, compelling, persuasive, and immersive (Pase, 2012; Rutledge, 2012).

While AR is presently used mainly for entertainment and appears gimmicky, it is an evolving technology and improving rapidly.  Recent market news predicts an increase in funding for AR development and programming of well over $600 million by 2016 (Dalitorio, 2012).  Major companies like Apple, HP, Google and Qualcomm are quickly investing and developing software and hardware for AR use. Further bolstering AR’s future is major capital investment by the US Department of Defense and studies being conducted by DARPA.

Psychologists should be seriously interested in AR technology developments for their potential clinical and research applications. Imagine being able to expose a patient with arachnophobia to augmented reality spiders while having full control over the size, shape, color, and movement of the realistic 3D creatures.  Imagine being able to have the patient interact with these virtual spiders going as far has having the ability to manipulate their movement and even pick them up, virtually of course!

While computerized therapeutic interventions have been around for some time through the use of virtual reality, that technology had major limitations.  Development costs were prohibitive; equipment was cumbersome to use, and the computer-generated environment required a significant suspension of disbelief for patients.  AR overcame these challenges by becoming accessible to anyone with a smart phone, tablet, or computer.  The software to develop applications is easy to use and, in some cases, inexpensive.  The AR has a major advantage over virtual reality for therapy as it makes suspension of disbelief easier by simply projecting realistic digital information into the patient’s real world.

Div. 46 is excited to promote this new technology at the upcoming annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii! Convention goers will be able to aim their smartphone (iPhone and Android) at posters spread around the convention hall. Using the free Aurasma AR app download, these posters will spring to life right on their screens, providing information about AR, Div. 46 panels and talks, and will invite them to attend the Div. 46 social hour.  An exciting array of AR applications, including an impressive phobia treatment application from Hitlabz in New Zealand, will be on display for everyone to experience, interact with and enjoy at the social hour!  To join in the excitement and to be on the cutting edge of technology be sure to download the Aurasma app from the App Store before the convention and be on the look out for the special Div. 46 AR posters.


Dalitorio, T. (2012, September 18). Augmented reality: A coming reality.

Pase, S. (2012). Ethical considerations in augmented reality applications. E-Learning, E-Business, Enterprise Information Systems, & E-Government: EEE International Journal, 1, 38-45.

Rutledge, P. (2012). Augmented reality: Brain Based Persuasion Model. E-Learning, E-Business, Enterprise Information Systems, & E-Government: EEE International Journal, 1, 45-57.

Links for AR apps, stories, imagery and videos


Date created: 2014

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