Video games have been entertaining us for nearly 30 years, ever since Pong was introduced to arcades in the early 1970s. Computer graphics have become much more sophisticated since then, and soon, game graphics will seem all too real. In the next decade, researchers plan to pull graphics out of your television screen or computer display and integrate them into real-world environments. This new technology, called augmented reality, will further blur the line between what's real and what's computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel and smell.


Augmented-reality displays will overlay computer-generated graphics onto the real world.

On the spectrum between virtual reality, which creates immersible, computer-generated environments, and the real world, augmented reality is closer to the real world. Augmented reality adds graphics, sounds, haptics and smell to the natural world as it exists. You can expect video games to drive the development of augmented reality, but this technology will have countless applications. Everyone from tourists to military troops will benefit from the ability to place computer-generated graphics in their field of vision.

Augmented reality will truly change the way we view the world. Picture yourself walking or driving down the street. With augmented-reality displays, which will eventually look much like a normal pair of glasses, informative graphics will appear in your field of view, and audio will coincide with whatever you see. These enhancements will be refreshed continually to reflect the movements of your head. In this edition of How Stuff WILL Work, we will take a look at this future technology, its components and how it will be used.