Augmented RealityGuest Post

Augmented Reality in the Movies: When Fantasy Becomes Reality

AR tools and toys that once appeared in fictional movies have now come to life in our modern world.


Guest Post


Augmented reality in its most basic sense is nothing new. For years the world has had a front seat view of the amazing things this technology can do. Now in 2019 some functions of AR, that may have been only fantasy in the past, are quickly becoming our new reality. Here we’re taking a look back at some of the films that first piqued our interest in AR and how the technology in these films fits into our real lives.

They Live

The 1980s sci-fi action thriller, They Live, earned its stripes in AR usage for its alien sensing sunglasses. In the film, overruling aliens subconsciously control the humans on Earth through subliminal media messaging, encouraging them to consume, reproduce and obey. It’s not until one unsuspecting citizen discovers the sunglasses, that they realize their leaders are in fact corpse-like aliens. The sunglasses project an augmented form of the true reality, which only the wearers can see.

Now 30 years later, AR glasses are in fact becoming a reality. Though not alien-sensing, AR glasses have been at the top of emerging technology discussions. Items like Google Glass and Focals offer consumers today the ability to text, update their calendar and even control their smart homes directly from their glasses. Social media-founded options like Facebook designed AR glasses are also in the works and expected to change the way we socialize and connect with others.

The Terminator 2

James Cameron’s Terminator 2 shows us what “Terminator vision” looks like through the eyes of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character. It’s a red-tinted world explained by text and data popping up with each step he takes, providing context to each new thing he sees. This robot-vision serves as a sort of stepping stone to what real-life augmented reality is today.

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Microsoft imitates the technology used here with its mixed reality headset HoloLens. Offering an extended field of view, users can see multiple holograms, text, and 3D images in high resolution. To improve the life-like feeling of the AR technology, users can also touch and move holograms in a way that feels natural. Additionally, they can make voice commands to the device which is equipped with natural language processing technology.

Iron Man

iron man augmented reality

Heavily saturated with AR technology, Iron Man gives a sneak peek into the advanced potential AR carries. This begins when we first see Iron Man’s decked out suit. We see Tony Stark work on a holographic image of his suit and the projected information about his surroundings he sees when wearing the suit.

Today, medical professionals are utilizing similar AR tools to create holographic projections of medical subjects. Just like Iron Man’s suit, this technology provides the ability to look beyond 2-dimensional figures, particularly in medical school training. AR technology is enabling medical students and surgeons to perform better as they can get more detailed, real-time visuals of patients. Moreover, they can test out any new techniques on a simulation rather than a real person.

iron man augmented reality

Back to the Future II

As the title suggests, Back to the Future was promoting technology way ahead of its time. The video glasses used by the McFly family at the dinner table serve as another predictor of augmented reality. More specifically, Google Glass. As Marty McFly watches simultaneous television shows through his “Vidglasses”, today we see AR as a modern entertainment platform.

Minority Report

Tom Cruise in Minority Report demonstrated several modern technologies including a holographic user interface. Swift swiping gestures and holographic touch screens help this character solve a crime in the film. Today’s technology closely imitates this film as we see law enforcement beginning to adopt AR technology.

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AR is helping officers to locate stolen vehicles by scanning license plates, trace the current location of other officers, identify criminals through facial recognition and view through walls and buildings during manhunts—all handsfree.

Much of what we’ve seen in cinema will remain a fantasy. However, as we’ve seen through these examples, with the right innovation and over enough time, what seems impossible may someday become our reality.

Marie Johnson

About the Author

Marie Johnson is a UX Designer, technology writer and regular contributor at Enlightened Digital. Located in New York City, she enjoys strolling through Central Park with a cappuccino in hand.