Kevin Slavin – Reality is Plenty, Thanks

Kevin Slavin recently (May 2011) delivered an excellent talk on Augmented Reality at the Mobile Monday event in Amsterdam. It is a well constructed and timely critique of what is becoming a widely recognised practice under the guise of a sprawling and ambiguous term.

Any critique of AR will most likely start with the semantics of the phrase I have just used, “creating [augmented] reality”, which from the outset is more grandiose than the practice is revealing itself to be.

Kevin’s critique challenges the predisposition of AR to ‘render reality in front of us’ and suggests, as with the uncanny valley hypothesis in the field of Robotics, that perceived reality is diminished by attempted mimesis. And an attempted mimesis is all that the common approaches in AR extend to. Also that the privileging of vision (occularcentricism), exemplified by conventional practices in AR to offer a translucent layer of ‘enhancements’ or infographics, seeks to change what we already see opposed to how we perceive it.

Kevin proposes a challenge to AR designers to enable the expression and sensation of the world in different ways, which can but does not necessarily have to involve anything you look at or through.

A healthy discussion has already developed around this talk and in particular it is worthwhile reading the responses of Julian Oliver and Usman Haque.

From a developer’s perspective the technical knowledge barrier for creating AR is significantly lower thanks to frameworks created for this purpose. The proliferation of standardised tools appears to have standardised what is expected from these experiences and led to masking of what an augmented reality has the potential to offer.

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