I am here, but I am not here…the augmented world, the virtual world, and the real world. Are virtual and augmented worlds not reality for some individuals? What is at the intersection of these worlds? Humans. When I think about the terms “AR” and “VR” – a flash of LARPers (i.e. Live Action Role-Playing) and D&D (i.e. Dungeons and Dragons) players on a crowded field outside comes to my mind. AR and VR have just given humans a new platform in the real world in which individuals can escape reality while still being planted exactly in the place in which they are trying to alter or escape.
But, AR and VR are not just for game players looking to escape the day-to-day humdrum of reality. They can be used to immerse oneself in places of the past (the cultural heritage component). According to Greenfield (2017), AR was originally made for military personnel, engineers, and firefighters (to name a few), but this tanked and did not catch fire (yes, puns) until the advent of the smartphone (ah, the all encompassing smartphone…). Additionally, VR gained popularity with the advent of fairly (I use this term loosely) lightweight headsets. The smartphone and VR headset gave users the ability to travel to distant historical places using a piece of technology composed of oxides. I remember the first time that I put on a VR headset. I was very aware of putting on the headset in a four-walled workspace in Tampa, Florida, but as soon as I started to enter the Palace of Versailles in Paris, France – I forgot that I was at work and became King Louis XIV. It was at that moment that I realized the power (and by “power” – I mean influence) of VR.
However, much like most technological applications – improvement was, and is, needed for AR and VR. Holding a phone in front of one’s face for a period of time is not good for the hand (s) (I can imagine this would present a problem for someone with rheumatoid arthritis) and a bulky headset minimizes the experience of pretending you are somewhere else. The aforementioned are mere physical repercussions of VR and AR, but what about the social, neurological and dependency issues that can arise? Just because we have the ability to create new and exciting technology does not necessarily mean that we need to use it or that it is advantageous for us.
Greenfield, Adam. 2017. Augmented reality: An interactive Overlay on the World. In Radical Technologies. The Design of Everyday Life. Verso, Brooklyn, NY.