Why AR? I Am a Digital Hippie.

Photo Credit Maarten Kadiks

How lucky am I to be living in the era that every nerd ever dreamed of — an era in which science fiction transforms into, well, just science. Still, my dream ‘what if I was born then’ epoch has always been the 1960s. Perhaps I have a false idea about the actual events and atmosphere of the ’60s, but I perceive it as an era of self-exploration flavoured with the simple aspiration for a utopian civilisation, and spiced with an amazing soundtrack. A simpler era where reality was reality, and mortality was mortality. But I accept that within our limited lifespan as an evolving species, we have an urge and perhaps an obligation to look at the bigger picture. It is after all, what makes religions, social structures, and yes, even technology evolve. The belief that there is ‘more’, and that there is a better way of living, a more efficient or progressive way. How this should be achieved [for individuals and societies] is the root of ancient and modern conflict.

As a digital hippie, I believe that there is still room for progress in the innovation process. I am convinced that tech leaders and developers can do better to sustain the balance between technology and its end beneficiaries — humanity and society. I am optimistic about the way technology is and will be integrated into our society, yet urge the industry and the reader to apply critical thinking to its development and application.

Midway through my thesis, I took a short break to beautiful Lisbon, Portugal. Just as my vacation commenced, a pop-up window grabbed my attention, introducing the launch of a new Augmented Reality application, Pokémon Go, based on the yellow pop-culture anime character, Pokémon.

“Oh no!” I thought. “And so it begins…” I was already deep into researching the failed diffusion of past Augmented Reality devices and applications, looking into new and existing platform builders [notably Microsoft, Apple and Magic Leap]. The viral popularity of this [Pokémon] game shuffled some of my core theories. As the weeks went by, it became a global phenomenon [despite its inevitable and quick decline]. You could see how marketers and investors were moving their interest [and funds] from the development and implementation of Virtual Reality towards Augmented Reality. It became evident that Augmented Reality was finally here. And here to stay.

At that point, I wondered what the implications of the new tech in town would be. How would Augmented Reality change our relationship with technology, and with reality itself? I wasn’t quite sure what I needed to do to tap into this universe of human, meaning and technology. Social sciences always fascinated me more than the exact sciences. Throughout my career, I constantly rebounded between my need to explore ideas about social and personal identity, and those about physical and virtual aesthetics and function. Following Steve Mann’s extraordinary work on information streaming and data layering via head mounted devices, I become drawn to Augmented Reality as the field that I find the most impressive in terms of the hybridisation of technology into the physical realm. Seeing the first Magic Leap simulation videos made my heart skip a beat. And there you have it. The moment where fiction ceased to exist, and science bled into our reality. So I committed to converging the past, present and future aspects of emerging technologies and Augmented Reality, and delivering perspective and prospective thoughts regarding its development and implementation.

Intro — Augmenting Alice: The Future of Identity, Experience and Reality