What is “Augmented Reality?”



Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality)

While the above definition is more than adequate for those simply looking to understand an unfamiliar term, it hardly begins to describe the experience known as “augmented reality.” To begin to understand this experience, you may want to view this marketing clip from Microsoft: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-hololens/en-us

The video developed to promote Microsoft’s HoloLens paints a pretty enticing picture. It doesn’t take much imagination, though, to begin to imagine how this technology might alter the human experience in ways that would make ordinary reality more difficult to navigate. When you think about enhancing or augmenting your reality, what aspects of your life would you most want to change? Can you imagine challenges you have overcome, both personal and professional that might have been aided or hampered by augmented reality?

Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, and numerous smaller players are making rapid advancement with technologies that will blend the virtual and real worlds to produce an experience that is intended to be more pleasant, satisfying, and engaging than unaltered reality. At first glance who can argue with technology that allows you to glance at your refrigerator and see an overlay of your shopping list? How could it harm you to look out a window that faces a brick wall and see a peaceful ocean scene in place of bland masonry? Of course, why stop there? Why not change what you see when you look in the mirror or glance at your spouse? Why ever learn to see beauty in the midst of a harsh, uninviting landscape; just change what you see!

Is it really true that perception is reality? That is the underlying philosophy of enhanced or augmented reality. And if perception is reality, should we work to square our perceptions with reality, or simply ignore reality in favor of a carefully crafted perception?