Augmenting Alice: The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality

Augmenting Alice: The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality

by Galit Ariel
Augmenting Alice: The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality

Augmenting Alice: The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality

by Galit Ariel


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Augmented Reality is fast becoming one of the most important emerging technologies, with unprecedented investment growth and interest from big tech platforms and accelerator industries. The book introduces Augmented Reality’s core concepts and potential to newbies and experts alike. It provides a ‘wide lens’ perspective of the potential, challenges and impact that the widespread implementation of Augmented Reality will bring.

Augmented Reality will most certainly become THE new platform and standard for content creation and experience generation. Its use will make it an essential resource, with a societal impact that can only be compared to the World Wide Web’s global influence. Looking at the impact of the technology as it matures into a ground-breaking platform, it goes beyond function to explore the context of the technology’s implementation – through social, commercial, and behavioural lenses. It raises a discussion about the forefront of Augmented Reality development, and what its application, and eventual impact, might mean for society in the near future. The book explores current issues already arising in the digital age, due to the implementation of emerging technologies and Augmented Reality in particular – including changing behaviours and social etiquettes, identity in the digital age, privacy and ethical concerns.

The book contains an augmented layer, which provides an interactive experience and additional information and will be updated periodically. However, the book is designed in a way that ensures a full [physical] experience without the need for anything extra.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789063694708
Publisher: Laurence King Publishing
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 10.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Galit Ariel is a transdisciplinary creative and strategic thinker. She defines herself as a 'Digital Hippie', since she is passionate about a future that will integrate technology into our everyday lives, but not control it. As a thought leader in Augmented Reality, she explores the wild and imaginative side of immersive technologies, but also their impact on our cultures, behaviours and ethical issues related to them.

Galit is an international speaker and mentor, featured at global conferences such as TED, The Next Web, SXSW, Fifteen Seconds, Slush Tokyo, OnBrand, IVRPA, ­WITI and many more.

Read an Excerpt


Down the Rabbit Hole

The Road So Far

At this point in time, a variety of technologies are being developed that have the potential to change the nature of technology – from an applied system to an integrated tool. Augmented Reality would be the 'one ring to rule them all' permitting us to form an interaction layer that would interlace the physical and the virtual. Before we move into the implications of such a change, let's take a step back and review what brought us to this point.

1.1 Understanding Augmentation

"The real world just doesn't offer up as easily the carefully designed pleasures, the thrilling challenges, and the powerful social bonding afforded by virtual environments. Reality doesn't motivate us as effectively. Reality isn't engineered to maximize our potential. Reality wasn't designed from the bottom up to make us happy."

What an odd species we are, as Jane McGonigal stated [above] we seem to not accept reality as is. Always on a quest to decipher, explore and modify our experiences within it, always on a quest to augment it. Throughout history, we have created incredible technologies that do exactly that, allowing us to overcome the uncertain conditions of mother nature, enhancing our communication and social systems, inventing things and materials that we need, crafting ones that we simply enjoy, and exploring the very nature of the universe. These are truly amazing achievements. The creation of a hybrid space that exists between the digital and the physical has fascinated authors, researchers and scholars for decades. Augmented Reality stands out as one of the most interesting bridges between the two realms.

As humans and technology embark on the journey to cross this bridge, let's look at the learnings and obstacles augmentation has faced so that we can better comprehend the path ahead. Don Norman, one of the most influential scholars focused on developing a centric approach to design and interactive systems, envisioned the future of computing as invisible information appliances, embedding computer processing features inside everyday objects. In his 1998 book, The Invisible Computer, he also concludes that this will heavily impact our interaction and relationship with our environment and the objects around us. Norman envisioned a future [that is currently unfolding before our eyes] where computing systems would be embedded within physical structures [interactive surfaces], where home devices would utilise the Internet as a data infrastructure [Internet of Things]. He envisioned the potential of wearables and body implants, and how everyday behaviour would change due to the access of portable information systems – or as he refers to them as 'pocket information displays'.

In their book, Windows & Mirrors, Jay David Bolter and Diane Gromala describe Norman's view of an invisible appliance as a window attribute. They argue that the additional role and potential of digital artifacts should be to reflect, enhance and evolve user actions. This means that while technology might become invisible, the interaction enabled through it acts as a mirror of our activities. So, in a sense, embedding even basic technologies generates new layers of interaction, which effect behaviours, rituals and cultures directly and indirectly. Smartphones are a great example. Within a relatively short period of time the frequency and quality of our mobile communication and related behaviour has shifted – sometimes with serious implications. There are new laws and awareness campaigns in place to deter people from texting while driving. Even our walking patterns have changed and to accommodate this new behaviour, some cities have created designated pedestrian lanes for texting pedestrians, and even placed pavement projected traffic lights to ensure that distracted 'texters' are aware of the traffic signals. Now, consider the context of Augmented Reality. We are trying to create a technology that applies a digital layer on top of [and within] our physical reality.

The popular television series Black Mirror narrates ominous predictions about the effects of emerging technologies and mass digital and social media. The show's title is a smart reference to our constant staring into our blackened mobile screens – it also derives from a divination method called 'scrying' – where future predictions are made by gazing into a reflective object, often a magic or darkened mirror. This method is attributed to Nostradamus, the French seer from the 1500s whose cryptic four-line prophecies are commonly quoted in relation to disastrous events.

Many developers tend to shrug their shoulders, and dismiss technology cautious individuals and policies as being overly conservative, or even regressive. The issue begins when valid concerns, considerations, and negative impacts are ignored, resulting in a technology-silo development bubble. Perhaps the myth of the genius visionary who disregards public opinion and social conventions has contributed to this.

As the use of immersive technologies will become more common, we ultimately need to understand how they might manipulate our perception of physical reality. To 'augment' reality means to achieve a higher or intensified state of reality itself, acting as a mirror and a window simultaneously.

The reality is that no technology is an island. Beyond its functional needs and features, every technology will eventually be used by humans. Technology at large is not a thing that is separate from a social context. Anyone developing and applying technology needs to consider the broader effect of its use. Embedding emerging technologies is likely to have some destabilising outcomes, controversy, and possibly alarming reactions. This is expected from any application of progressive processes and behaviours. And if this is a core expectation for the application of technology, why are we shrugging it off as a side effect?

The realisation of Augmented Reality is a natural progression – a merger of processes, and an evolution of the user interface. We have moved from vacuum tubes to transistors and on to integrated systems. This is the natural outcome of maximising computing power, miniaturisation and the commoditisation of mobile computing devices, as well as the ongoing development of multisensory input systems into human-sized machines. Today, we already need to consider a much broader aspect of system building – forming a seamless system that incorporates hardware, software, multi-platform, user interface, service design, brand, and content delivery. As big-data analytics evolves, we will see more micro- behavioural feedback integrated into applications and experience building. Yet the most interesting shift will be the strides toward biological machines and computational neuroscience – this is where cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence surpass science fiction hypotheses, and transform them into tangible futures. As these technologies become available and fully functional, they will enable the development of complex systems within user communication and feedback. We will see the creation of holistic and targeted experiences – Augmented Realities serving as the experience bridge between the digital and the physical.

1.2 The Virtual Continuum

Many users and developers seem to loosely refer to Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality applications and devices as the same technology. Although they share many features and both sit within the virtual, there is a significant difference between the two. Virtual Reality's paradigm is to form a fully immersive simulation that replaces the user's environment, whereas Augmented Reality builds a digital layer onto or within the existing physical environment.

What defines the different immersive technology mostly relates to their [a] content source and the [b] experience medium. Following Milgram and Kishino's 1994 Virtual Continuum model there are 4 core immersive states within the spectrum:

Physical Reality which refers to physical world content, experienced in a physical space. Augmented Reality which refers to digital world content, experienced within a physical space. Augmented Virtuality which refers to physical world generated content, experienced in a digital space and Virtual Reality which refers to digital world content, experienced within a digital space.

The term 'Augmented Reality' was coined in 1990 by Boeing researchers Tom Caudell and David Mizell, during the Boeing Augmented Reality Head Mounted Display [HMD] system project for the new 777 jet- liner. Augmented Reality is often defined as "all cases in which the display of an otherwise real environment is augmented by means of virtual [computer graphic] objects."

In other words the enhancement of the user's existing environment via a digital layer. An extended definition of Augmented Reality looks beyond the layered visual aspect, defining Augmented Reality as a view of a physical, real-world environment with elements that are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.

Regardless of the technique used to create the digital layer, these definitions imply that any digital layering within a physical space could fall within the definition of Augmented Reality. I prefer to stick to the registration definition – where the augmented layer demonstrates a strong link and shares a spatial relation to the environment. A projection of digital imagery within a physical space does not qualify as Augmented Reality, unless it contains reactive features that transform according to variables within the environment – to form a truly digital/physical continuum by adapting and transforming to specific features, positions and interactions within the space.

Another misconception is that augmentation requires a complex application of high-fidelity technologies. However, the transcendence and the application of interactivity within an environment can be achieved in simple and effective ways, as demonstrated by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Known for his sensory transforming sculptures and installations, he focuses on manipulating and representing spaces and natural phenomena through the use of reflection, mist, water and light. Eliasson aims to create a sensual and surreal exploration of the physical environment and the sense of self. In 2003, he created The Weather Project installation in the Tate Modern Museum's Turbine Hall. It simulated what can best be described as an immersive sun-gazing experience. In his 2010 Feelings Are Facts installation, Eliasson used simple, yet highly-impactful methods to manipulate the senses and augment spaces. An empty space was filled with colour-illuminated mist, creating an instant sense of spatial density. The thick, almost physical blocks of coloured mist framed the space for the wandering or stationary observer, and formed an alternating sense of orientation and disorientation. It was interesting to experience one's own surprising shifts in mood and perception caused by the misty-colour-lit sensory zones. Another layer of the surreal experience was triggered by the ghostly presence of other visitors as they emerged and disappeared into the mist.

Since Virtual Reality aspires to simulate and replace our physical environment, it needs to create a fully artificial immersive experience via high-fidelity simulation. This is primarily achieved through the development of Head Mounted Devices [HMDs], or enclosed immersive environments, for example, the Star Trek Holodeck [and just to establish where I stand, Star Trek kicks Star Wars' ass]. This high-fidelity simulation needs to consider all the environmental and sensory aspects in order to offer a convincing immersive experience. This is perhaps the greatest challenge facing the development and implementation of the technology.

1.3 Oculus Rising

Virtual Reality simulation devices and technology have been developed and experimented with consistently since the 1960s. From Virtual Reality pioneer and cinematographer Morton Heilig, who created the electromechanical Sensorama in 1962, to computer graphics pioneer Ivan Sutherland's preliminary three-dimensional display experiments in 1966 and 1967 at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory. These devices, however, were cumbersome, and not fit for commercial use. Sutherland's 1968 head-tracking Virtual Reality display, for example, was so heavy that it had to be suspended from the ceiling. Research into basic Virtual Reality technology by military, aeronautical and space exploration bodies such as NASA– combined with Edward Thorp and Claude Shannon's 1955–1965 explorations and prototypes of wearable computing at MIT, and the work of inventor, cyber-culture and wearable-tech pioneer Steven Mann since the 1970s – have resulted in the emergence of an increasing number of ergonomic and consumer-friendly Virtual Reality applications and devices.

The integration of Virtual Reality technology into fully immersive games really kicked off in the 1990's. Yet even the biggest technology and gaming corporations failed to develop a device that achieved commercial success and could penetrate the market. The Sega VR and Atari Jaguar VR Head Mounted Device prototypes take their place among dozens of other devices that were never brought to commercial development. Devices that did manage to hit the market – such as Nintendo's 1995 Virtual Boy handheld console and Sony's 1997 Glasstron Virtual Reality HMD– were taken off the shelves relatively quickly.

These products suffered from steep development and product costs, and failed to supply mass-market compatibility. A principal issue with their lack of success was the fact that these devices fell short of providing a truly immersive experience due to sub-optimal ergonomics, low-quality image and resolution, and physical side effects that left users "dizzy with disappointment, and just plain dizzy."

Past failures with the diffusion and commercialisation of Virtual Reality HMDs may have discouraged many corporations and individuals from pursuing this area of innovation, but Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey was not one of them. Frustrated with the inadequacy of the existing HMDs in his collection, Luckey created his first prototype in 2011 at age 18 [yep, in his parents' garage]. Luckey posted regular updates of his development work on a forum website frequented by Virtual Reality enthusiasts, using swarm creativity, and exchanging ideas and knowledge about the device and its technology. This example of what innovation leader Eric Von Hippel calls 'an innovation community', was instrumental to the development of the Oculus Rift headset, since it marked the beginning of Luckey's collaboration with game development guru John Carmack.

This collaboration can only be compared with that of Apple's visionary duo Steve Jobs and Jonathan Ives. Luckey functions as the garage-entrepreneurial visionary, and Carmack as the development and design genius. Carmack modified the prototype, and demoed it at the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo, creating an instant industry buzz. As a result of growing interest, Luckey left college and focused on developing the Oculus Rift.

The diffusion strategy for the Rift system was radical for a technology development project of this magnitude, with a Kickstarter crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding campaign. Luckey and Carmack raised 974% of their original target, equating to a total of US$ 2.4 million. The Kickstarter campaign made the Oculus Rift development kit available in exchange for pledging a mere US$ 300. This strategy guaranteed a broad-based, multi-platform, trial-and-error development period via a Collaborative Innovation Network [COIN]. The open platform innovation approach enabled the 2014 public release of the Rift DK1 [development kit 1], including the firmware, schematics, and mechanicals for the device.

Another advantage of this strategy was that it seeded the device to the most influential change agents in the gaming industry – multimedia and game designers, developers and innovators. Using crowd-sourcing, gaming conferences, vast media coverage and a unique development process, Oculus Rift had already ensured full innovation visibility and partial access to early adopter consumers. With its core target group being gamers – the natural early adopters – exposure and seeding of the technology was certainly achievable, and the commercial potential for the product was looking extremely encouraging with 100,000 developer kits sold.

In March 2014, Facebook purchased Oculus VR for a whopping US$ 2 billion. Boosting the market confidence in Virtual Reality technology and accelerating its development and investments, paving the way for other market introductions, such as the Gear VR headset, which transforms the Galaxy smartphone into a portable VR device. The company pushed its offering to Oculus Go – a standalone mobile-based headset, that actually gained much robust sales figures.


Excerpted from "Augmenting Alice"
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Copyright © 2017 Galit Ariel and BIS Publishers.
Excerpted by permission of BIS Publishers.
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Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Wonderland within reach
An introduction to the subject selection and key related terms

1.0 Into the rabbit hole
(The section offers an introduction to the technology's features and relevance)
What is Augmented Reality & What It Is Not
? Types and terms related to Augmented Reality
Implementation of Augmented Reality - Current & Future

2.0 Beyond the Mirror
(The looks at the context within which AR technology is introduced, state of market, world and user perceptions)
Atoms, Bits, Data and beyond
Say "Hello" to My Little Experience!
Experience Everywhere - From the Invisible Computer to the Embedded Experience

3.0 Who the f*&k is Alice?
(Shifting identities in the Augmented age)
Digital Tribes - New User Segmentation
Right Here, Right Now - Identity and presence in an Augmented World
The Real Catfish - Augmented Relationships

4.0 The Cheshire Cat
(This section would look at the commercial potential and implementation of Augmented Reality)
Expierruncy - The Experience Economy
Mine, Mine, Mine - Content Creation & Ownership
Who's story is it anyways? Augmented Storytelling

5.0 Culture Queens
(Shifting cultures and content due to AR implementation)
Information Politics
Digital Ethics
Get Out of My Reality

6.0 Reality's Caterpillar
(This section would look at emerging changes within the concept of "Reality" due to Integration of an Augmentation layer)
The Real Fake - The Reality Echo Chamber
Experiencing is Believing - Augmented Spirituality
Post and Hyper Realism

Full Immersion
With great power comes great responsibility
Whats next
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