Augmented Rashomon Reality

My Q3 2016 AR rant. 🔮

Reality is supposed to be the things we all agree exist. Our consensus.

🎅 Dreams and imagination are personal.

The universe is common to us all.

Affirming our shared reality is one reason the scientific method needs reproducible results. 🔬 One reality for all.

Augmented reality is messing with this.


Commercial Augmented Reality starts with everyone seeing the same things in the same places, like virtual monuments and Pokemon gyms. We’ve been here for a while.


Next, AR services dive deep into tailoring your augments just for you. Many people can be at the same place at the same time and each have slightly different experiences. Our cafe is styled a little Viennese for me, a little Starbuckian for you.


AR experiences are always gaining fidelity, aspiring to blend seamlessly with your world and with other virtual things. Built from bits or atoms, they’re both real to you, just with different affordances.

So when everyone in a crowded elevator swears to their trip to the ground floor was different from everyone else’s, they may be telling the truth.

This Rashomon fracturing of communal perceptions will expand as high fidelity AR experiences become ubiquitous and ordinary.



Turn of the century social software pioneers brought a static web to life. Conversational media like bulletin boards and blog comments let us talk. Social object gestures like following and sharing built relationships. Realtime communication with instant messaging, chat, voice and video chat, and MMO talk injected immediacy and presence.

Social software helped billions of Internet users stitch our social graphs together.


That social revolution is coming to augmented reality.

The remedy to hyperpersonal realities is social.

We’ll soak our augments in social.

So our realities, both physical and cyberspace, become common 🌐 and the basis for our consensus of what is real.

Let’s imagine what social abilities we want from our future augmented reality open architectures.

  • Does your service help peers (and groups) share parts of their worlds for a while amongst each other? (right to share)
  • May I subscribe to parts of your augmented life? (right to syndicate)
  • Can I apply filters to alter how others’ augments appear to me and what they do for me? (right to tinker)
  • Do you help me avoid confusing my augmented things from atomic things? (affordance clarity)
  • Do you help me avoid confusing my augmented from others’ augments? (provenance)


Humans have had a hard enough time agreeing on reality since we invented language. Let’s ensure the blending of cyberspace and the world doesn’t make it harder.