Augmented Reality: The new eyes or the new blindfold?

Augmented Reality is quickly becoming part of the new eyes of modern society, but is it really allowing users to see more or see what they want to see? Is it enhancing our human experience or limiting our humanity?

Augmented Reality was a vision of enhanced reality conceptualised to add to the experience of the human environment, progressions in technology though have shifted its digital purpose. Its commercialised developments have meant that the role of AR in society has shifted, both advancing its role but also questioning the benefit from which users really gain. Thus, augmented reality has the potential to transform the digital world but the impact of its presence will be determined by the development and direction of its innovation.

The Genesis:

Augmented reality was conceptualised in the belief that it would be a tool for improving human productivity, however its slow innovation towards such a goal makes its genesis appear disjointed and unstable. One of the first functioning augmented reality systems was developed in 1992 and was a complex robotic system designed to compensate for the lack of 3D graphics (IDF, 2020). The AR system was designed with a focus to increase sensory information within the users workspace environment to improve human productivity levels (IDF, 2020). However, in order for AR to be taken seriously in the everyday environment it needed to demonstrate how traditional experiences can be improved through its systems and enhancements (IDF, 2020). Rather than building upon this solid foundation, AR took a different direction and was extensively used in commercial developments rather than enhancing productivity like the belief its creation was founded in (Hudson, 2011).

It is developments like social media that demonstrate the slow progress AR has made and how far it has deterred from its genesis. AR was once directed towards the potential to be a sensorama where it delivered visuals, sounds, vibrations and even smells to the user (IDF, 2020). However it has now become a tool for generating consumer engagement via social media channels used as a tool for marketing campaigns (Scholz, 2016, p155). This use of AR technology highlights how limited the technology has been used in everyday life, rather than developing its potential it was used to generate marketing tactics such as Facebook allowing users to share their digitally decorated pint of Guinness (Scholz, 2016, p156) . Whilst concepts such as social media have transgressed the early technology of augmented reality from eye gear to the screen of a smartphone (Pesce, 2017), its use is far from purpose of its creation.

Kirkpatrick, D. 2017.Guinness enhances taste of beer with VR experience https://www.marketingdive.com/news/guinness-enhances-taste-of-beer-with-vr-experience/443117/

Historical Trends:

Historical trends of augmented reality have been altered by the influence of it societal context. The society that augmented reality exists in will be able to determine how and where the technology will best be used, this is seen particularly in the technology’s evolving presence in communication media. In 1999 augmented reality continued its commercialised developments as Naval researchers crafted battlefield augmented reality systems for soldiers whilst NASA used augmented reality to enhance visual navigation during flight tests (Williams, 2016). Eventually as technology progressed as did AR’s incorporation into the 2000’s where technological applications such as ARToolKit allowed an overlay of video to be transferred to a computer which complemented augmented reality (Williams, 2016). What this trend demonstrates is how AR is adapted to the technology and society of its time which dictate its use and functionality in the digital landscape. This trends continues as with the shutdown of retail stores due to COVID-19 marketers will need to adapt with AR in order to compensate for the absence of in store experiences (Saraogi, 2020). This means that the consumer shopping experience could change drastically even after the affects of COVID-19 as consumers being to see the ease the technology could bring to their shopping experience. PATIO interactive demonstrates what the eyes of consumers could look like in the near future, demonstrating how augmented reality will rise from a $1.15billion industry to $7.9 billion in 2023 (Saraogi, 2020).

It can be anticipated that augmented reality will transition in the future to be a part of a geo targeting market strategy for brands to promote relevant offers and become part of tracking consumer patterns to anticipate behaviour (Chatterjee, 2020). As data is progressing to be one of the most powerful sources of information in modern society augmented reality will be a powerful tool in predicting and influencing consumers.

PATIO Interactive, 2017. Shopping with Augmented reality. YouTube.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQcJSZPpNhA

 

Ownership and Control:

Social media companies will take ownership of the field of augmented reality as these platforms continue the rising nature of their ability to allow individuals to see and access the world. Augmented reality has created the perfect environment for social media companies to create systems that continuously scan the real world and acquire important data points about these users (Pesce, 2017). Social media companies ability to acquire data from its users means it is better equipped to alter and influence the perceptions of the reality around them. Such a power of shaping reality is evident in the partnership between the The New York Times and Facebook’s partnership for an augmented reality project designed to create filters that contextualise the papers journalism and make it more interactive (Fischer, 2020). Facebook will launch this partnership through its Spark AR technology and this will help the social media giant to shape the reality of its users whilst also consequently demonstrating the evolving nature of the relationship between tech companies and publishers. Giving rise to a new digital age of tech companies becoming the eyes of its users and a channel for other companies to be a direction of sight. 

                               

Fischer, S. 2020. NYT, Facebook launch multi-year augmented reality reporting project. AXIOS.https://www.axios.com/new-york-times-facebook-augmented-reality-0973fa9e-ffcc-4a68-91ec-ffb77d757745.html

 

These two images demonstrate what the partnership will look like to users, they not only inform users what the story is briefly about but they perform a visual experience of the poor air quality in order to shape individuals perception more effectively. What this demonstrates is is rising era of tech companies such as Facebook being involved with not only dispersing information but also doing it through the augmented reality technology which will only advance under their development (Fischer, 2020). This demonstrates the power of social media companies will have, to shape the reality of its users based on beliefs and inputs from other companies, and opening the door to questioning whether users are at the mercy of viewing what social media companies and others want us to see.

The Benefits:

With an increasing presence in revolutionary technologies such as AR, social media is set to benefit as its social power will only grow. Social media platforms have a strong social influence over its users and their use of AR has only benefitted them further. Platforms such as Snapchat offer AR filters that can be branded by companies to promote their products (Griffin, 2020). For example, the brand Taco Bell created a snapchat filter that interacted with the users reality whilst featuring the brands logo and this was shared by a multitude of people (Griffin, 2020) and consequently influencing their mindset to want to purchase these food products. It is these platforms that will benefit from AR as brands are no longer wanting a static picture to capture the attention of consumers but rather need an interactive experience which these platforms are able to offer with the added bonus of a large audience (Griffin, 2020). Thus, social media is able to benefit economically from AR as their social influence and connectivity provides them with the ability to promote brands in a modern and captivating way. However, users of these filters may not benefit from them as their privacy risk greatly increases when using these apps that engage in AR filters. Users of these filters increase their vulnerability to privacy breaches as the tracking sensors within AR are not indestructible but can be compromised and actually peek into the users physical space (Fineman, 2018). Thus, whilst both social media and brands are able to benefit from the data and influence given to them from AR the user is placed at risk of serious privacy breaches as well as social manipulation from these branded AR functions.

Conclusion:

As demonstrated above augmented reality has evolved from its conception of being a device to enhance human experiences in all senses to now a commercialised development designed for social manipulation. AR has only been on the trend to increase its presence in everyday life but not necessarily in the way in which its early developers believed it would, this is due to its modern developers who have shifted the meaning of the technology today. It was once conceptualised that AR technology would only exist in the eyewear of the future in glasses and goggles but today it exists in a new set of eyes, in smartphones and smart cameras which alter and interact with the reality of its users.

 

 

 

References:

Chatterjee, S. 2020. How retail is fast tracking to phygital shopping experiences amidst COVID-19.https://www.financialexpress.com/brandwagon/how-retail-is-fast-tracking-to-phygital-shopping-experiences-amidst-covid-19/2092786/ 

Fineman, B ad Lewis, N. 2018. Securing your reality: Addressing security and privacy in virtual and augmented reality applications. Educause Review.https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/securing-your-reality-addressing-security-and-privacy-in-virtual-and-augmented-reality-applications

Fischer, 2020. NYT, Facebook launch multi-year augmented reality reporting project. AXIOS.https://www.axios.com/new-york-times-facebook-augmented-reality-0973fa9e-ffcc-4a68-91ec-ffb77d757745.html

Griffin, T. 2020. How Augmented reality can boost social media marketing. Forbes.https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/01/08/how-augmented-reality-can-boost-social-media-marketing/#763d49153604

Hudson, A. 2011. The Promise of augmented reality:Gaga in a living room. BBC.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/click_online/9522052.stm

IDF, 2020. Augmented Reality—The Past, The Present and The Future. Interaction Design Foundation.https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/augmented-reality-the-past-the-present-and-the-future

Pesce, M. (2017, December 1). The Last Days of Reality. Retrieved 31 July 2020, from Meanjin website: https://meanjin.com.au/essays/the-last-days-of-reality/

Williams, D. 2017. The History of Augmented Reality (Infographic). Huffpost .https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-history-of-augmented-_b_9955048

Saraogi, M. 2020. How AR can help retailers in customers during COVID-19. YourStory.https://yourstory.com/2020/05/ar-help-retailers-win-customers-covid-19

Scholz, J. Smith, A. 2016. Augmented reality: designing immersice experiences that maximise consumer engagement. VOL 59 149-161. Science Direct. https://www-sciencedirect-com.ezproxy2.library.usyd.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0007681315001421

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About Leah Chegwyn 4 Articles
University of Sydney Student studying Digital Transformations. Come read my posts as I navigate my way through understanding the complex processes that surround the media landscape.