Papagiannis is an AR pioneer. She completed her PhD on the topic in 2014, long before it became a mainstream term. While she fully embraces AR’s potential, over the years, she’s become used to hearing from skeptics. “One of the biggest misconceptions is that AR is science fiction – that it’s something we won’t be using until years in the future,” she says. “But it’s all possible today, and the technology has now taken centre stage with a big part of our daily lives shifting to virtual modes amid COVID-19. AR is no longer the future, it’s now. In my consulting practice, I’m working with clients from around the globe helping them navigate the possibilities in these digitally accelerated times.”

Papagiannis says one of the reasons people are resistant to AR is because they often see technology as something cold or distant. But her interest is based in the human side of technology. Ways to extend our humanity by creating things that may not otherwise be possible in reality. “It’s important to ask how we can use these new technologies and virtual interactions to foster and support human connection and creativity, particularly in the current climate as we self-isolate and are physically disconnected from friends and family. How will we design experiences that are meaningful and help uplift humanity now and beyond?”

Startup Magic Leap, for instance, has created virtual humans that can help those on the autism spectrum learn to pick up on social cues and practise their job interview skills. OrCam, a company working on augmented reality for the blind and vision impaired, is developing tech such as glasses that can read text to the user, recognize familiar faces and identify products at the store based on packaging and bar codes.  AR is also making art come alive for visitors to the London, UK-based museum Tate Britain.