What is Augmented Reality?
The dictionary meaning of augmented reality is interactive experience of a real-world environment where the objects that reside in the real world are enhanced by computer-generated perceptual information. Simply, augmented reality technology is bringing visual objects to the real world.
There are 3 basic rules to define a technology is “augmented reality”
-Overlay of Real and Digital world
-Registration and Alignment in 3D
To explain this, we need to ask some questions.
First one is, Is any digitally enhanced image an AR?
Answer is no. Digitally edited 2D images could not accept for AR technology.
Second one is, movies with 3D objects like “Transformers” and “Jurassic Park” are these acceptable for AR?
Sorry but again answer is no. Yes they are 3D virtual objects but they are not interactive. So, they could not accept for AR technology.
The movie “Transformers”
Third question is, On tv we are sometimes see virtual weather forecast scenes like storms or flood. Are they count?
Yes, they were made with augmented reality technologies. Weather man can interact with these visuals.
Wheather forecast using augmented reality technology
We can simply sum up AR like that.
So, AR and VR? Are they same technologies?
No, the biggest difference between virtual reality and augmented reality is their virtual and real rates. AR has %25 virtual, %75 real scenes. VR has %75 virtual, %25 real scenes. Basically, virtual reality is virtual world with virtual 3D objects.
Device difference between AR/MR and VR
You have to wear head mounted display(HMD) devices in virtual reality. But augmented reality is not that hard to reach.
You can of course use devices like Microsoft Hololens, but the most accessible way to use augmented reality is by using a phone. AR is easy to reach, for everyone.
About Augmented Reality’s history there is a surprising fact that, the idea of AR, first mentioned in 1901 by L.Frank Baum. His idea was “electronic display/spectacles that overlays data onto real life”. What a futuristic idea for a 100 years ago, right?
And in 1968 Ivan Sutherland, a Harvard professor and computer scientist, created the first head-mounted display, jokingly referred to as “The Sword of Damocles” because of the large overhead beam required to support its weight.
Sword of Damocles by Ivan Sutherland
The user experienced computer-generated graphics that enhanced their sensory perception of the world.
And take a step to augmented reality with “VideoPlace”.
Videoplace by Myron Kruger
In 1974 Myron Kruger, a computer researcher built a laboratory called “Videoplace”, which was completely dedicated to artifical reality. It’s working process kinda simple.
Videoplace working process
In lab, they was used to projection and camera technology to emit onscreen silhouettes. And users could had interactive experience. User could type sentences, painting freely, and critter interaction.
B-spline control by Videoplace
What about todays Augmented Reality?
Augmented Reality in healthcare anatomy education
Today’s technology is developing in an unstoppable way. Augmented reality technology is used in tourism, education, marketing, commerce, games, etc. Can be used for. It’s a very interesting technology that everyone loves. Google developed a pair of glasses called Google Glass in 2011, it was a very innovative and inspiring device, but users could not interact with virtual information in the real world. The device did not meet one of the “Basic Rules of AR”. So that lack, make it disqualified for the AR field. And Google ended the program in 2015.
Google Lens and Microsoft Hololens
But we have Microsoft HoloLens.
Microsoft released this HMD in 2015. Unlike Google Lens, the user can interact with virtual objects You can find all kinds of applications for augmented reality in the app store. From yoga to painting. Augmented reality can be used for all areas.
Well, what are the facts that we ignore?
Do you remember Pokemon Go?
Pokemon Go game, hunting a Squirtle
When this game was launched, people all over the world took to the streets and started hunting pokemon. People love this interactive augmented reality game. But have you ever heard that this game caused about 150,000 traffic accidents and 256 deaths? This is a little terrifying.
Users got addicted to the game and started to play the game everywhere. Using a mobile phone while driving is dangerous. Trying to catch Pokémon at the wheel could be even worse.
You may remember the pokemon child in Turkey. Pokemon banned in Turkey because he jumped from window. This was not first Pokemon disaster we lived.
The boy, who feels himself “Pokemon” jumped from window and broke his leg. In Turkey
So, Is this just only negativity? Will the problem be solved if people use augmented reality apps carefully?
Sorry but no.
Research shows that people who behave badly in virtual or augmented reality can start to behave badly in real life. We must treat virtual characters with respect, because otherwise we could mistreat people. It can affect our mental health.
After an intense and emotional experience in XR, you take the headset off, and you are suddenly in the very different real world. We are not good at quick adjustment of behavior and emotion regulation.
Sword Art Online Anime, Kirito waking up from Underworld after 2 years
Re-entry to the real world, especially after repeated XR exposure, might lead to disturbances of various types:
Cognitive “Did something happen in XR or in real life?”,
We can be unable to separate the real world and augmented or virtual world after several days.
Emotional “Cause of emotions is not real, for example your avatar was insulted by a fictional virtual character”,
In the end, we are all humanbeing. It does not matter, virtual or real world. If our heart get broken in virtual world, then we will be upset in real world too.
Behavioral “Actions accepted in XR may not be socially accepted in the real world”
We have values. We should pay attention to manners and morals. Each games and apps have different rules so is the world.
Mark Zuckerberg with digital bunny face effect
We are familiar with Snapchat and Instagram face effects. People are spending more and more time online on the XR, their virtual bodies may tend to be considered more beautiful or preferable in various ways compared to their real bodies.
“An increasing number of patients are seeking out plastic surgery based on what they see in apps like Snapchat and Facetune, according to three dermatologists from the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center” said Jamie Ducharma in Time magazine. When we see ourselves with effects, it looks more beautiful to us. And when we come back to reality, the result getting upset us. Technology can sometimes damage our self-confidence and self-respect.
Nobody can deny, AR and VR technologies are very useful. Perfect for teachers to study interactively. But think about where you are looking at your teacher, there is a politician who talking more controversial or contentious by making eye contact with you. Eye contact can cause us to be convinced. Various studies from Stanford University have shown that if the characteristics of a political figure can be changed even slightly to resemble each voter in turn, this can have a significant impact on how people vote. People vote for candidates similar to them.
They manipulated photos of politicians. And the participants were completely unaware that the image was being manipulated. These technologies can manipulate our brain.
And this is just the beginning.
If we do not want to be sad in the end, we must face the facts in the beginning.
We have to keep us safe and sound without escaping from these technologies.
These technologies which is using with HMDs, collects our facial features, expressions, gestures, body appearance and many other factors by the software without you knowing.
It is good to remind. our data is collected and stored. And as we have seen in past actions, our data is at their mercy. There is a risk of being shared.
Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal
Do not forget, what happens in the virtual world does not stay in the virtual world.
These technologies are magic wand for us, but try to use it wisely.
Stay safe and stay healthy.
The sci-fi short film which i used in cover photo “Strange Beasts” is about augmented reality. You can watch it from Youtube.
Ayşenur Şeyda Bilgü