WoW Woman in AR | Dr. Helen Papagiannis, AR researcher, designer, author and technology evangelist

Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic


Dr. Helen Papagiannis is the author of “Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping the New Reality” published by O’Reilly Media. She is internationally recognized as a leading expert in Augmented Reality (AR). Her work spans over a decade in the field as a researcher, designer, and technology evangelist.

She is the former Chief Innovation Officer at Infinity Augmented Reality Inc. (New York and Tel Aviv), and was a Senior Research Associate at York University’s Augmented Reality Lab (Toronto). Dr. Papagiannis’s presentations and exhibitions include TEDx (Technology, Entertainment, Design), ISMAR (International Society for Mixed andAugmented Reality), and ISEA (International Symposium for Electronic Art). Her TEDx 2011 talk was featured among the Top 10 Talks on AR, and in 2016 she was a finalist for the prestigious World Technology Award.

Prior to her augmented life, Dr. Papagiannis was a member of Bruce Mau Design where she was project lead on "Massive Change: The Future of Global Design", a groundbreaking exhibition and best-selling book (Phaidon, 2004) examining the new inventions and technologies changing the world. She is currently based in Toronto, Canada.

What is the idea behind "Augmented Human" and how did you come up with it?

“Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping The New Reality” looks at how Augmented Reality (AR) will forever change the way we interact with and experience the world. The book is a journey through each of the human senses and how AR will extend our natural capacities. We often think of AR as a visual medium, but it’s not limited to that. Audio, touch, smell, and taste: it’s all possible in AR.

"Augmented Human" identifies the opportunities and implications of this new medium. It’s written for designers, developers, business leaders, entrepreneurs, students, educators, and anyone who is interested in learning about what AR is and where it’s going. No previous knowledge of AR is required to read the book, and if you’re already familiar with the field, it’s a chance to go deeper into the topic and possibilities.

When I began working with AR in 2005, the focus in the industry and research community was on the technology. The primary question was, “Can we achieve this technically?” Today, the big question is, “Now that we know we can do this from a technical perspective, what are we going to do with it?” And that’s where my PhD work (which was focused on AR as a new medium) and “Augmented Human” comes in: it’s all about designing compelling experiences and this is the book to inform and inspire.

The AR space is really heating up with continual announcements from all the big players: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon. It's a great time to read about the topic and help design the future of this rapidly growing industry.

What does your current job role entail?

I consult on AR as a subject matter expert and am a keynote speaker represented by The Lavin Agency giving talks around the world on how AR will impact all aspects of our daily lives: the way we communicate, work, live, and play.

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How long did it take you to be where you are now?

It’s been 12 years since I’ve been working with AR. Before my augmented life, I led a project called “Massive Change: The Future of Global Design” while working at Bruce Mau Design in Toronto, Canada. “Massive Change” was a 20,000 square foot travelling exhibition commissioned by The Vancouver Art Gallery, and a best-selling book published by Phaidon Press. The project explored the power and promise of design to change the world through new inventions, emerging technologies, and big ideas. “Massive Change” posed the question, "Now that we can do anything what willwe do?" In many ways, “Augmented Human” was my “Massive Change” part II. AR is going to change everything in a massive way.

What was the biggest obstacle?

The biggest obstacle was probably pressing on at a time when the industry was focused on technology rather than experiences and storytelling, plugging away, and being a champion for creating meaningful experiences in AR.

What are your biggest achievements to date?

I’m very proud to have completed my PhD on the topic and to have my book “Augmented Human” published by O’Reilly.

What will be the key trends in the AR/VR industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?

Everyone talks about the enterprise, and yes it’s definitely an area where we’ll see AR have a big impact, but retail is a place we will see a major consumer impact and is an area to watch. In “Augmented Human” I identify 10 AR experience categories. One of those is AR as a visualization experience and we’re seeing this applied in retail by Ikea and even Amazon, giving consumers the ability to preview 3D virtual objects in their homes or offices. But it’s not limited to seeing products in your physical space. AR can also be used to preview products on the body, whether it’s trying on virtual makeup using Sephora’s Virtual Artist app by Modiface, or trying on a pair of glasses with Warby Parker’s app. AR experiences on mobile devices are just the beginning and are only scratching the surface of what’s possible. AR eyewear is what’s next, and I think it’s coming sooner than we may expect.

What are the challenges of being a woman in AR/VR industries?

The community is amazing and organizations like WoW help to highlight the tremendous talents in the space and further connect us. The big challenges are human challenges: we need to remember humans first, technology second, and focus on enriching experiences that are human-centered, applying the technology to positively impact people’s lives.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all women in AR/VR out there?

Stick to it. Keep doing the amazing work you’re doing. We need you.

Who are your 3 inspirational women in AR/VR?

Dr. Caitlin Fisher, Dr. Jacquelyn Ford Morie, and Dr. Janet Murray. I highly recommend you interview these amazing AR/VR leaders next!

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Helen has kindly agreed to give away 1 free copy of her book “Augmented Human: How Technology is Shaping the New Reality” published by O’Reilly Media.

Find more info about the book here -

One lucky winner will get Helen's e-book!

Last day to submit your entry is Sunday, 17 December 2017.

Enter the giveaway here! 

Good luck!

Helen & Women of Wearables team






Twitter: @ARstories

Instagram: @AugmentedHuman

Facebook: @AugmentedHumanBook  

LinkedIn: Helen Papagiannis 


This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.