10 May 2021 | Ori Inbar
A brief history of AWE and the birth of the AR Industry
Augmented Reality

This was the state of AR prior to 2009

In 2010, it was quite lonely to be a developer in AR and VR.

A group of AR pioneers had an urge to congregate and thus AWE was born. It was a unique opportunity for a couple of hundred AR enthusiasts to meet, share ideas, and help accelerate the adoption of this incredible tech in the mainstream.

We had a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal): a moonshot of “1 billion AR users by 2020” as a rallying cry for the industry.

What sparked the birth of AWE at this particular time in 2010?

Here are the key factors:

1. At the end of 2009 the industry experienced a major transition: Following decades of AR research and development exclusively in Universities and research labs scattered around the world, R&D shifted towards tech giants thanks to huge investments by companies such as Microsoft (Kinect), Google (Goggles), Qualcomm (Vuforia), and others.

2. At the same time, AR became popular thanks to a series of high profile print-based campaigns using PC webcams, such as GE Smartgrid, MINI, Ray ban try-on glasses, and the Esquire magazine AR edition with Robert Downey Jr,

3. But above all, the exploding popularity of smartphones (iPhone and Android) with the built-in ingredients necessary for AR experiences, enabled the emergence of GPS-based AR Browsers - pioneered by Wikitude and improved by dozen others such as Layar, Metaio-Junaio, Yelp Monocle. This triggered a massive interest in AR.

Popularity of AR went through the roof in 2009/2010 (based on Google Trends)

2010 - the first AWE

In the first AWE (initially called ARE) the sessions and exhibits presented mostly ideas and concepts; over the years it evolved to showcase real products with real customers in both the enterprise and consumer markets.

In 2010, the entire exhibit area was the size of the AWE 2019 stage itself, but the attendee list would prove to boast a group of influential pioneers in the AR industry.
Here are the names of the ARE2010 speakers - who do you recognize?


SoLoMo fever (Social, Local, Mobile) help Location based AR games emerge (but remain niche)

AR Browser’s potential is recognized, but disappoints because of the inaccuracy of GPS-based AR.

AR SDK landscape dominated by Qualcomm’s vuforia.

2012 is when AR in enterprise with companies like Daqri and Joinpad is starting to pop its head

Lots of dinosaurs in AR campaigns.

Exhibitors from ARE2011-12 - so many are still leaders in AR!

AWE 2012 shirt predicts the great Augmented Reality use cases of the future

Interest in AR remains high!

- Google Glass appears on the AR world stage, Meta is born. joining 40 manufacturers of smartglasses. enterprise is taking the stage, lots of star wars games, 

Exhibit space doubles in size!

Cool giveaway: I am in AWE pin!

2014 - Niantic launches Ingress AR game (still niche but biggest AR game ever), Epson glasses, 

Tango appears!

A rapper perform AR…

Tango appears at AWE

AR.org publishes smartglasses report with 40+ smartglasses reviewed

Totally Punk AWE Shirt designed by Yehuda Duenyas: Augmento Ergo Sum (I augment therefore I am)

2015 - VR and Wearable Tech join AWE, as the AR industry is taking shape mostly in Enterprises with hundreds of fortune1000 attending, Metaio is acquired by Apple. Google Glass is a flop…but Magic Leap raises $542M! 

Snap Lens/ face filters are launched!

New Theme is embraced by the AWE community: Superpowers to the People!
AR and VR can make you better at anything you do in work and life - it gives you superpowers!

Known for the infamous AR v VR panel


Cool giveaway - the AWE Augmented Cube!

First AWE in Asia is launched!

2016 - Big year for AR: Hololens ships, Pokemon Go launches. 

2017 - 

Theme: Turning the power of AR+VR for the good of humanity - Superpowers to change the world

AWE Playground emerges to capture the growing interest in experiential immersive computing

AWE debuts in Europe (Berlin)

2018 - key indicators prove XR is headed to mainstream

Theme: Go XR or go extinct

ecommerce  is getting big

Machine learning breakthrough with deep learning enables near flawless computer vision tracking experiences.


Enter the Next Dimension (with Spatial Computing)

The pandemic devastates the world, and AWE goes online, increasing reach of AWE Nite meetups, and offering it's sponsors alternative ways to reach their clients in the AWE community online.

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