Exploring the Whole New World with Augmented Reality

Figure 1 "Augmented Reality" by turkletom is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The advent of digital computer allowed information to be obtained, generated, shared, manipulated, stored and presented in many new ways(Craig, 2013b). Much like other graphical interfaces, Augmented reality (AR) is a combination of several technologies that work together to present digital information into visual perception which gives us the ability to bring usable information into the visual spectrum in real time wherever we are. As Gene Becker states, Augmented Reality is a vision of future computing, an emerging commercial industry and most importantly a new medium for creative expression to take place(Kipper, 2013, p.4). Businesses, the economy and society are at a crucial stage in the adoption new technologies to create incredible new experiences to engage with the users and make an impact. Based on PwC research report it shows the potential boost of VR and AR to GDP by 2030 can be $1.5 trillion(Dalton & Gillham, 2019). Certainly, it is worth to explore the trends and opportunities of AR technology and its potential political, economic and social impacts in the light of today’s modern landscape.

Figure 2The rise of VR and AR–VR and AR have the potential to boost GDP globally by 2030 up to $1.5 trillion (See report at pwc.com/SeeingIsBelieving), licensed under CC BY 2.0

Genesis of Augmented Reality (AR) and is historical trends in Communication media

The core essence of an augmented reality experience is user’s participation in engaging in with the digital information that it consists—which is achieved by simulating or manipulating users’ senses to modify and enhance an ‘imagined sphere’, new visions of worlds that appears to be real. Whilst the Virtual Reality (VR) technologies completely immerse the users inside a synthetic environment where the real world around them cannot be seen, the Augmented Reality (AR) is taking digitally generated information to make it integrated with real-time environment–whether it be images, audio, video, and touch or haptic sensations. Therefore, it can be understood as the “middle ground” between the completely synthetic and the complete real(Kipper, 2013, p.1).

The improvement in mobile technology supports has increased the needs of AR applications. Even though Augmented Reality has not become an everyday thing for the mass public, we acknowledge that AR is widely being adopted in a variety of application areas across different sectors and industries.Especially in the current reality of COVID-19, the AR has proven its potential to be effectively utilized in the areas of entertainment, education, cultural events and even political activism(Papagiannis, 2020).

Current Trends and implications of AR

Considering the trend toward more application areas, as of now, the preponderance of AR application fall into the fields of advertising, medicine, games, or education(Craig, 2013a). Originally, as a new form of attraction, the project-based AR affords many exciting opportunities for new entertainment applications, which is widely used to enhance or energize theme park or other entertainment environments(Mine et al., 2012). By using multimedia to create a visual environment with sensible elements that responds instantly to the users’ activities, such integrated reality like AR is essentially a form of technology that has been utilized in marketing and advertising by organizations, companies and political campaigns. In recent years, The mobile platform has transformed Augmented Reality become widely distributed communication tool which pushes innovation to new levels(Kipper, 2013). As it evolves and improve the level of user customization, it offers more room for imagination to take place and make an impact on our daily life.

Social movements and activism 

Comparing to the AR in entertainment, education and culture industries, the use of immersive technology in activism is fairly new to the public. By superimposing digital information on the physical world make it possible to crowdsource a movement’s message(Wassom, 2011). Protests and social change movements involving AR applications has proven to have a significant political impact on our society. Even when the protesters are not allowed to protest at Wall Street physically, AR Occupy Wall street created by Mark Skwarek allows people around the world to send in photos and videos of themselves “virtually” participating in this 3D protest event. Gergana Mileva (2019) in her article has argued that “Augmented reality is reshaping activism…fuelling activists to fight for social change”.  The Occupy Movement in 2011 is a great example that demonstrates the tendency of AR to entrench existing political divisions.

Figure 3 AR Occupy Wall Street, All Rights Reserved.


Figure 4 Augmented Reality Performance in #Occupywallstreet movement, All Rights Reserved

Augmented Reality in Education

As a powerful visualization tool, educators are moving to adopt online teaching and learning models. For example, an app developed by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic uses the “HoloAnatomy” app in their lesson designs for medical school students. By adopting AR technology, this app enables the students to bring an object or concept into a reality which helps them with understanding the concepts they learn from textbooks. This use of AR in education has opened the students to an entirely new learning environment.

Culture and Arts with AR

Running until 23rd August 2020, the Seattle Design Festival in Seattle, Washington, a public art exhibition involving AR allows the visitors to access virtual art inspired by original BlackLivesMatter street paintings which have been taken down. When the visitors use their smartphone devices to access the event, the AR features allows them to search for new art in an innovative way. Not only does the AR project help to preserve the traces of impactful arts, but also offers a way for people to relive a piece of history of the past. Unlike a conventional galley, however, the visitors are encouraged to travel throughout the city in search of arts. As Gargi Kadoo from GGLO (an architecture and design firm) said the art exhibition is switched to a digital format due to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks but it turned out this AR art show is successful in “offering the public a chance to explore the core messages of #BlackLivesMatter while adhering to social distancing protocols. With the application of AR, the artists’ experience of time and space can therefore be converted and visualized digitally to the audiences with increased and heightened awareness(Doyle, 2018).  As space is no longer a restriction for the artists, there is imaginative freedom to engage with the audiences or to have the experience of being embodied in someone’s imagination.

Figure 5 A city-wide digital art show celebrates the street art of BLM, All Rights Reserved.
Figure 6 “Augmented Reality Comics @ Ars Electronica Center” by Ars Electronica is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Nevertheless, the power of AR allows its users to embrace recreated realities can certainly bringing positive changes to our digital worlds. At the same time, we should also be aware of its potential influence on the users as it blurs the boundary between reality and the virtual world. By reflecting on the political, economic, and social significance of Augmented Reality and its application in different areas, we should recognize the fact that this technology is still developing and evolving. From the applications of AR in advertising, education, and social movements, we see the Augmented Reality attempts to reshape the way we interact with the world around us. Considering augmented reality to be a medium that provides an interactive way to mediate between humans and technologies, it offers us opportunities to explore a whole new world.



Craig, A. B. (2013a). The Future of Augmented Reality. In Understanding Augmented Reality (pp. 255–265). https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-240-82408-6.00009-6

Craig, A. B. (2013b). What Is Augmented Reality? In Understanding Augmented Reality (pp. 1–37). https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-0-240-82408-6.00001-1

Dalton, J., & Gillham, J. (2019). Seeing Is Believing-How VR and AR will transform business and the economy. In PwC.org (pp. 1–18). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(00)57996-3

Doyle, D. (2018). Imagination and the phenomenology of virtual practice. Enhancing Art, Culture, and Design With Technological Integration, 131–151. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-5023-5.ch007

Kipper, G. (2013a). The Value of Augmented Reality: Public Safety, The Military, and The Law. Augmented Reality, 97–109. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-1-59-749733-6.00004-8

Kipper, G. (2013b). What Is Augmented Reality? In Augmented Reality (pp. 1–27). Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/b978-1-59-749733-6.00001-2

Mileva, G. (2019). How Augmented Reality Is Reshaping Activism. AR Post. https://arpost.co/2019/10/14/how-augmented-reality-is-reshaping-activism/

Mine, M., Rose, D., Yang, B., Baar, J., & Grundhöfer, A. (2012). Reality in Disney Theme Parks. IEEE Computer Society, 32–40. https://web.cs.wpi.edu/~gogo/courses/cs525A/papers/Mine_2012_ProjectionAR.pdf

Papagiannis, H. (2020). 3 ways Augmented Reality can help us with COVID-19 and beyond | World Economic Forum. In Weforum.Org. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/augmented-reality-covid-19-positive-use/

Wassom, B. (2011). Political Activism, Social Change, and Augmented Reality _ Wassom. http://www.wassom.com/political-activism-social-change-and-augmented-reality.html

Yan Duan
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USYD 2nd-year Digital Culture/Film studies