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Augmented Reality - Filling the Spaces
by Evan Sforza `

Just when we thought reality was a hard enough concept to grasp, we went ahead and augmented it. This clip is from a video that went viral back in March of 2009. It depicts what seems to be a man donning a headset apparently able to beam information directly though his skull, making him essentially hallucinate a heads up display. Throughout the clip, and quite unfortunately, the heads up display does little more than inform the protagonist about the make, model, and battery level of other less awesome devices he happens to stumble upon during his whereabouts, but, regardless of what's been artfully depicted, it's the technology itself that is worth a closer look. 

The human brain does an excellent job at categorizing; we look at objects and they're immediately located within our pre-constructed schema of vocabulary and utility: what's this called, and what kind of function is this most likely to serve? If it's something we've never seen before, then it isn't long before we find a metal location to which to map it. It's this language of ours - this artificial construct we essentially overlay and wrap around our mental projection of the world - that is so fundamental to the way we perceive and interpret our world, and it's nearly impossible to escape from. Considering such, it is no surprise that one of the major functions we see with both real and fictional depictions of augmented reality is its ability to make this inherent quality of ours optically tangible. Not only does this make devices like the one in the clip seem extremely useful, they're almost immediately coddled and assimilated into our being for how closely they resonate with our basest of instincts; what can be so shocking or alien about a technology that simply makes visible what we're always already doing?

But even a technology as seemingly straightforward as augmented reality has so much more potential embedded within it; classifying things within our field of view that we may or may not have already known is a drop in the ocean of possibilities. Imagine our everyday interactions and the paths we take through the world - the jumping from activity to activity; we're always limited by our immediate knowledge of our surroundings - held back by how unfamiliar we are with the details of our environment, but augmented reality changes that; the world around us swells with possibility provided our new insight into what is now and has always been available to us.

Henry Jenkins had written about the importance of space, and how game designers are less storytellers and more narrative architects, designing spaces ripe with narrative possibility - spaces in which their players are free to explore and generate their own narratives. With this in mind, we can see how a technology like augmented reality does the same for our biological lives as good game designers do for our virtual avatars, and the combination of the two - game designers designing for augmented reality - will cause our interactions with our surroundings and each other to bloom into something so rich and pregnant with meaning and narrative that our entire way of existing and being will be undeniably  transformed. 

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
What's in the Box? and Augmented Reality by Tim Smit (2009) In this short sci-fi video that went viral late in 2009, the first-person perspective and the heads-up display are used in a way which resembles both certain video game genres (like the first-person shooter) and recent experiments in augmented reality.