The concept of “real” in Augmented Reality

I often find it amusing that the word “real” is often looked at in a very superficial way in the tech sector. It is as if, what is real has been forgotten and reduced to a blue print of its shadow self. This get worse in the whole Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) worlds…

“We started off from a world in itself which acted upon our eyes so as to cause us to see it, and we now have consciousness of or thought about the world, but the nature of this world remains unchanged: it is still defined by the absolute mutual exteriority of its parts, and is merely duplicated throughout its extent by a thought which sustains it”
Maurice Merleau-Ponty

Augmented reality is narrowly centered on the view of the real world through a camera. Therefore, it is not the “reality” but a “view” of reality. When the scene is observed through a camera, it is no longer “reality” and more of a virtuality or as Philip Auslander (in The Performativity of Performance Documentation) puts it; a performance document. The document provides evidence that the event actually occurred and also provides a fragmentary and incomplete record that can be reconstructed. In case of a live video system, there is always a “processing” component that tries to reconstruct what the camera sees into pixels. Even with the most recent Ultra High Definition displays, the colours seen by the naked eye differ to the reconstructed colours. The relationship between the performance (event) and the document (view) are ontological. Helen Gilbert who is well known for her art work Licomos puts this beautifully:

“A document is not only representationally accurate but ontologically connected to the real world and this allows it be treated as a piece of the real world, then as a substitute of it.”

It get scary when people are immersed in such worlds and confuse the reconstruction of the physical view or at best a substitute or a piece of the real world with “real”.

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