Augmented Reality: On The Way From The Present To The Future, Who Is The Audience, Who Benefits, And Who Does Not

A capture from film Pixels that show an imagination of AR game war in reality
Pixels the movie by Eddie Makuch



“I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.”

                                                                                                                                           – Tim Cook


The film and television describe an extremely splendid science fiction world for us. Opening a new world life in the virtual world seems a bit far away from us. But augmented reality experience technology has penetrated daily life. This article will first introduce what AR is and its history. Then use the examples of AR in games, education and artistic communication area to explore the social benefits and risks of AR. After these analyses, we may figure out who is the audience of AR.

Mash-up of AR and VR clips in movies
 [Mash-Cut] Will the overlap of virtual and reality become our future “real world”? By Jiandaoke Jason

The Growth of AR

At the technical level, augmented reality (AR) can be understood as superimposing digital information (including images, audio touch, etc.) in a real-time environment or deleting real-world information (Kipper, & Rampolla, 20120). This concept appears in 1992, At Boeing’s Computer Services’ Adaptive Nervous System Research and Development project. Tom Caudell and Daivid Mizell officially proposed augmented reality for the first time. Then in 1997, leading researcher of AR Ronald Azuma gave it a clear definition (Craig, 2013):

  1. Combination of virtual and real
  2. Real-time interaction
  3. Registered in 3D

In the past two decades, VR has developed rapidly. From the daily useful digital tool Global Positioning System (GPS) , intelligent language translation , to business and entertainment app like IKEA Place (See Figure 1) and AR game Jurassic World Alive. It has entered social life in an all-round way.

IKEA Place, an AR app to allow custom preview the furniture at home
Figure 1: IKEA Place By Arielle Pardes

Although AR is a concept that has only appeared in recent decades, it comes from the idea of ​​improving the environment that humans existed thousands of years ago (See figure 2) (Craig, 2013). Therefore, it is a sensory-enhancing information input. According to this feature, AR can be regarded as a medium and not just a technology. Just like the IKEA PLACE App mentioned above, it is a new marketing and advertising method of IKEA. It enhances customers’ visual experience of whether the furniture matches their own home through pre-purchase.

The ancient Egyptian murals both beautify the house and record the story, which can be seen as an act of augmented reality
Figure 2: Egypt Mural Painting By Xinhua/Meng Tao

The Work Way and Benefit From AR

Fast building a cyberpunk city on the ground depicted in a science fiction movie may be too far away from us, but the mode of combining virtual games with the real world in film Pixels is now widespread. The mobile-based AR game Pokémon Go (See Figure 3), which was registered in 2016, attracted worldwide attention. Twelve days after its release, it has attracted 45 million players worldwide (Rhodes, 2019). As of 2018, it has earned 1.8 billion US dollars in income. This successful template can also be copied to other video games. Because video games, especially those based on mobile phones, are essentially interactive, electronic, and cross-platform (Liberati, 2019). The combination of it and AR conform to the trend of realization of games. Also,it is easy to be accepted and used by the user because of the same technology. Therefore, game companies may be the one that the public sees most directly benefiting from AR technology.

Pokémon Go’s game interface, including a capture system based on real locations, a nurturing interface based on reality, and Pokémon’s information interface
Figure 3: POKEMON GO Composite by Gieson Cacho

The success of AR in games has wonderfully driven the development of AR education. As a generation of students born after the millennium, they have been exposed to digital technology and the virtual world since they were children. Digital education is more in line with their lifestyle and future direction. Then, the combination of Digital Game Technology (DGT) and Game-based learning (GBL) came into being (Bruno, 2019). Rox’s Secret Coding Game is a sophisticated interactive children’s book app launched in 2019. It tells a coding adventure of an outstanding inventor and her out-of-control robot, which intend to guide readers to a preliminary understanding of coding through the story. With the supporting Secret Code application (See video), customer can use a mobile device with a camera to create own, living robot on the cover of the book. It stimulates children’s interest and creativity far better than traditional books or drawings. Because children can immediately see the results they have created, and can interact with them (such as saying hello) and observe it in all directions. This timely sense of accomplishment can bring great satisfaction and motivation to children.

A demonstration of how Rox’s Secret Coding Game’s AR system works with its physical book
Rox’s Secret Coding Game by Secret Code


The Risks of AR as A New Technology

The characteristics of AR is the combination of virtual and reality. It may result in the blur of the boundary between reality and virtuality by addicted individuals and cause hazardous consequences. The first death due to Pokémon Go was a 20-year-old man in San Francisco in 2016 . He was playing this game before being shot. However, this did not raise player’s vigilance. After that, news of robberies, car accidents, and even falling off cliffs while playing AR games continued to emerge (See figure 7).

This picture shows that Pokémon may appear on the road in such a dangerous place

Malik Pokemon By Photograph by Chris Helgren / ReutersBesides, the ethical issues involved in AR have also received widespread attention. Mark Zuckerberg expressed his expectation that AR technology will use on Facebook to achieve graffiti in every part of the world at the 2017 Facebook Annual Technology Conference (Pesce, 2017). It seems that AR will bring a new, three-dimensional chat style of communication. But before this new mass media platform opened, its moral issues had been revealed through public art. In 2010, an artist constructed a virtual statue of the Goddess of Democracy and placed it on the “real” Tiananmen Square to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests (See figure 8)However, this event is a taboo for China government. It can be imagined that, if this virtual art is open to the public with smart devices like the graffiti wall advocated by Mark, it will cause a political battle. According to this logic, bad users can enhance their destructive behaviours in the freer AR field. And AR usually sticks with a fixed location, which means that the audience for this behaviour, and even the victims, will be more random and broader. It means every smart device holder passing by the location may watch the hate speeches.

Using iPhone or Android phone, one can view a virtual Statue of Democracy superimposed within the physical environment
Tiananmen AR by 4 Gentlemen




“We want to make it easier for people everywhere to imagine a better place.” 

                                                                                                      -IKEA Place App Ad Word


In a narrow sense, the owners of AR technology, such as Pokémon Go’s game merchants, interactive children’s book publishers, or Facebook who intends to use AR, are the most direct beneficiaries of this technology. But AR should not just be seen as a technology that enhances the attractiveness of commodities. It is a future technology and new medium with unlimited prospects. I believe that it will become a new lifestyle covering all aspects of society. However, it is worth reminding that the rules and literacy of the community may not be able to keep up with the rapid development of technology. When using AR, social problems such as blurring the boundary between reality and the virtual world, and magnify bad behaviour should be vigilant. In general, it is difficult for us to know who the victim and beneficiary of AR technology will be, just like asking who can benefit from the Internet and who can not. Everyone will be the audience of AR. Just remember, alert to the darkness under the sun when enjoying its convenient.


Reference List

Bruno, L. E., & Geroimenko, V. (Eds.). (2019). Get Gamified: Promoting Augmented Reality and Digital Game Technology in Education. In Augmented Reality Games I: Understanding the Pokémon GO Phenomenon (1st ed. 2019 ed., pp. 237–251). Springer.

Craig, A. B. (2013). Understanding Augmented Reality: Concepts and Applications (1st ed.). Morgan Kaufmann.

Kipper, G., & Rampolla, J. (2012). Augmented Reality: An Emerging Technologies Guide to AR (1st ed.). Syngress.

Liberati, N.,& Geroimenko, V. (Eds.). (2019). Mediation Theory Between Pokémon GO and the Everyday World. In Augmented Reality Games I: Understanding the Pokémon GO Phenomenon (1st ed. 2019 ed., pp. 51–60). Springer.

Pesce, M. (2017). The last days of reality. Meanjin, 76(4), 66–81.

Rhodes, G. A.& Geroimenko, V. (Eds.). (2019). Waiting for the Augmented Reality ‘Killer App’: Pokémon GO 2016. In Augmented Reality Games I: Understanding the Pokémon GO Phenomenon (1st ed. 2019 ed., pp. 3–14). Springer.



Multimedia Reference List

Cacho, G. (2019, December 17). Pokemon Go Composite [Screenshot]. Niantic Reveals New Details about ‘Pokemon Go’ Buddy Adventure.

Helgren, C. & Reuters. (2016, July 12). Malik Pokemon [Photograph]. Pokémon Go Will Make You Crave Augmented Reality.

Jiandaoke Jason. (2019, April 1). [Mash-Cut] Will the overlap of virtual and reality become our future “real world”? [Video]. bilibili.

Judson, M. (2019, June 14). 6 People Who Tragically Died (Or Almost Died) Playing Pokemon Go. Ranker.

Makuch, E. (2015, April 16). Pixels the movie [Screenshot]. Adam Sandler Movie Pixels Getting Its Own Game.

Pardes, A. (2017, September 20). IKEA Place [Photograph]. Ikea’s New App Flaunts What You’ll Love Most About AR.

Secret Code. (2019, January 31). Rox’s Secret Coding Game [Video]. YouTube.

Tao, M. & Xinhua. (2019, April 19). [Shows the mural paintings inside the tomb of Nefertari, the wife of ancient Egypt’s Pharaoh Ramesses II, at Valley of the Queens in Luxor, Egypt. Discovered in 1904, the tomb is famous for its mural paintings with vivid colors.]. Mural Paintings Seen inside Ancient Tomb in Luxor, Egypt.

4 Gentlemen. (2011, January 31). Tiananmen AR [Photograph]. Tiananmen Square Augmented Reality.

About Yixi Zhou 4 Articles
Hi, I am Erica. I am majoring in Film Study N Digital Culture. Nice to meet you! You can also visit my blog. Welcome!