Notes on our expanding realities

Reality. Everything that is. This, according to Marc Aurel Schnabel, even includes a thing that has or has not been “created, designed, observable or comprehensible,” you could argue that this includes images or information generated by the control of electrons on a circuit.

“Real” is not all there is.

The new Mixed Realities include Augmented Reality, Augmented Virtuality, Mediated Reality, Virtuality…, but what exactly do all these mean? Where do they fall between what is real and what is virtual?

This is the spectrum of Mixed Reality as defined by Marc Aurel Schnabel.

The classification of Mixed Reality technologies allows us to talk about them in meaningful and convenient ways. Using the right classification makes it easy to understand if we are referring to a physical element entering the digital world or a digital element entering the physical world.

This distinction becomes important when deciding on the applications for certain technologies. For example, do you want to collaborate with a team member who is hundreds of miles away, or are they in the next room? Is the project a new building sited on an empty field or an addition surrounded by other buildings? Is the application for the beginning stages of design or is it almost ready to ship? I’ll save the definitions and examples for later posts, it is enough for now to just provide a way of mapping Mixed Realities.

It is easy to see that Augmented Reality is not the only new technology on the block. The correct terms should be used where appropriate to avoid confusion, and to legitimize these technologies to the general public. When done right, and given real utility, mixed reality technologies are far from gimmicky toys. Combined, they allow us to collaborate efficiently and across any distance, and in a variety of different expressive mediums.

They create important feedback loops throughout all stages of design and even into construction. Our imagination and power to iterate as designers will be unhindered as we effortlessly move between real and digital — a freedom that can only be achieved by exploiting the full spectrum of the new Mixed Reality.

New technologies will revolutionize the way we store and access information, how we work, how we collaborate, and possibly most concerning for many, how we play.

For a more eccentric glimpse into this future check out this article over at Big Think.


Bryan is a designer, artist, and writer — ever exploring what it means to be native to our time and place.

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