THE AUGMENTED REALLITY

by Carlos Risco July 2017 SPECIAL FEATURES Read in PDF format N14/2017
THE AUGMENTED REALLITY AUGMENTED REALITY IS LIKE SOME SORT OF SOFTWARE ENHANCED RETINA THAT ENDOWS OUR EYES AND MINDS WITH SUPER POWERS.

We humans perceive the world visually thanks to a complex mechanism that begins with a sensory stimulus in the retina and ends in a complex cognitive process inside the brain. Visual perception is unidirectional and organic; it is basically the result of our brains decoding the little bits of reality that come in through our eyes. But what if we were to add a layer of virtual information to our “analog” vision in order to support and reconstruct our perception? Our sight would gain new powers, and our visual experience would be enhanced with every successive level of digital information, maps, geopositioning... our reality would be “augmented.” That is essentially what augmented reality purports to accomplish. Augmented reality, as defined by Daniel Sánchez-Crespo—creator of Invizimals, a hit augmented reality game that was a precursor to Pokemon Go—, is a technology that, “allows us to combine synthetic and real-life scenes in an integrated fashion, creating a new ultra-sensory experience.”

Above : Screenshots from the short film “Hyper-Reality,” by Keiichi Matsuda.

VIRTUALITY AND IMAGE

There are many devices that combine these two worlds: GPS, digital cameras, digital compasses, computers and mobile phones, all work together to create layers of information that are then superimposed on the user’s “real” world, fusing together with physical reality as an interactive plug-in and in real time. One example of augmented reality from the world of film is the famous scene from Terminator 2. James Cameron showed us the point of view of the T-800 machine, which was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and we all recall how, the minute the naked android arrived on Earth, he started seeing numbers superimposed on his field of vision, with lots of overlapping digital data showing him the measurements, weights and number of bikers (whose clothes and motorcycles he would later steal) in front of him. The machine’s vision was enhanced. In the Terminator narrative, real-life perspective was stuffed full of IT data. Here, as in Tom Cruise’s Minority Report, science fiction converges with the real world. And like in many of Jules Verne’s dreams, in the 21st century, these devices now form part of our daily lives. Today, augmented reality is a real-life tool we can use to perceive the world. However, this digital eye capable of identifying and locating the things around us has gradually left science fiction behind and entered the realm of day-to-day life. Today’s augmented reality device par excellence is our mobile phone, but its natural evolution—becoming an integral part of our perception through a lens that displays data in real time and instantly enhances our sense of vision—has already become a tangible reality. The Google Glass device is a symbol of the new ultra-sensory cyborg that combines stimuli and computer data from external software and hardware with human perception. With these augment ed reality glasses you can see all the information on your smartphone without having to look at it, interact with your smartphone and retrieve information hands-free using voice commands. Google’s glasses symbolize the emergence of human robots, capable of taking photos with their third eye while perceiving and interacting with reality using artificial layers of digital data and information. Unlike virtual reality, this enhanced universe does not transport us to an imaginary world, instead it enriches the real world and becomes a part of it. And, if we are to heed McLuhan’s saying that, “we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us,” our perception will soon become a mixture of neural circuits and software. With the irreversible emergence of augmented reality devices, “anyone will be able to put Ikea furniture together,” joked Christina Rittchen, of the augmented app Wikitude. Or, “become Michelin-star chefs,” quipped Japanese architect Keiichi Matsuda, creator of the experimental video “Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop,” which offers a reflexion on the implications of augmented reality for advertising, social networks, and modern marketing. With enhanced perception for surgeons, pilots, musicians, tourists and anyone else who wants it, it seems likely that augmented reality really is here to stay. The future is served.

Videos on Augmented Reality by Japanese artist Keiichi Matsuda (below) are a must on YouTube. Below, the game Pokemon Go, a global augmented reality craze. To the top, the virtual reality console PlayStation VR. 

Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset manufactured by a company born on Kickstarter and later acquired by Facebook. 

¿AUGMENTED OR DIMINISHED?

As the virtual lens grows stronger thanks to Google and others (Facebook bought Oculus Rift, the video game headset that recreates three-dimensional vision), augmented reality is conquering smartphones through apps that, while still mostly hype, are starting to build a juicy market for games and marketing. Juniper Research, among others, has predicted that the apps market for this technology will net profits of up to 2.5 billion dollars in 2017. Meanwhile, Nicholas Carr, an expert in new technologies and author of ‘The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains’ says he mistrusts software that supersedes human talent, “in many cases, it isn’t expanding our perception, quite the opposite.”

 

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