In 2002, to experience augmented reality was to lash 10kg of equipment to your body and hobble waywardly within the confines of predefined area. In 2010, you can augment the entire world with a free app for your smartphone.
This shot of the Columbia University's Mobile Augmented Reality System (MARS) comes from a PopSci story written 10 Februaries ago. (The magazine's searchable archives just went online.) This right around the time that augmented reality had made the jump from esoteric sci-fi concept to actual thing, albeit in the form of awkward research projects and simplistic military applications:
If you strap on this rig, as [the writer]had, you begin to understand the profound possibilities of an AR system, which can superimpose computer-generated text, graphics, 3D animation, sound, or any other or any other digitized data on the real world.
As much as modern smartphone apps like Layar actually do more - they're connected to the internet constantly, for one - they still don't meet one of the core criteria of the augmented reality concept: they're not glasses. In other words, you've got to hold your smartphone out in front of you, as if you're taking a video at all times, which is as obnoxious as it is exhausting to your upper arms. So it's not quite sci-fi.
But it's a far sight closer than we've ever come before. [PopSci]