The History and Potential Uses of AR and VR in Libraries

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

June 15, 2021

As librarians look to the future of technology, they must consider both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR). These technology tools are used by people to create content and as a resource for learning/experiencing something new.

History of AR and VR

The history of augmented and virtual reality begins in 1838 with the invention of the stereoscope, a device where you can view an object in what appears to be 3D. From there, the growth of augmented and virtual reality technology was slow with incremental improvements on the stereoscope and the invention of the kinetoscope.

In the late 20th century, more rapid growth occurred with the invention of the telesphere mask, which is similar to the VR headset we are familiar with today. The invention of a headset allowed virtual and augmented reality to take big leaps. Today, we can experience virtual and augmented reality using our phones or by purchasing a standalone headset and being immersed in a different world.

To see the full history of Augmented and Virtual Reality, view the infographic from

The following are suggested resources to review:

From an educational perspective, one takeaway from this history is how humans have been creating immersive and augmented experiences for almost 200 years. This demonstrates humans’ interest in pushing beyond what is physically in front of them.

*Harvard Business Review allows a certain number of articles to be read for free each month without an account. To read more, you can create a free account on the site.

Historic and Current Uses of AR and VR

Historically, AR and VR devices were primarily marketed for entertainment purposes, even though the stereoscope was originally invented to study binocular vision.

By the mid-1900s, as technology advanced, military, industrial, and educational uses were introduced. Today, AR and VR are being used by many companies for employee training. For example, Verizon uses VR to teach employees how to deescalate a conversation with an upset customer. The football team at Stanford University has been using VR to help their players practice, and Boeing has been using AR for employees to reference as they are building airplane parts.


If you are not aware of how your others in your industry are using AR and VR, I suggest doing some research. There are many ways AR and VR is being used by companies, non-profits, and higher education institutions. As librarians, we need to be aware of this technology to potentially conduct training on it, and we need to consider how we will capture the content created in these environments for archival purposes.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent speaker on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her professional interests include information literacy, educational technology, library and information science education, teacher identity, and academic development. Please read Lauren’s other posts about skills for special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.


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