AR may not be the household acronym that VR has become, but it certainly should be. The technology has made huge strides in recent years and has the potential not to help us escape from reality, but to enhance it in ways that many of us are just beginning to be able to realize.
At Wondarlands, a consulting agency based in the Netherlands, this is exactly the kind of dreaming that they do. Galit Ariel, founder and Creative Director of the agency, has made it her career to ponder these questions and help other companies in the field develop the answers.
Ariel’s book, Augmenting Alice, which focuses on the concepts and executions of AR, even comes with its own partner app that can be downloaded to your smartphone. With the app, you can experience a book about augmented reality in augmented reality.
We sat down with Galit Ariel during Slush Tokyo 2018 to discuss the expanding field of AR technology and her talk for that day, “How to Make Terrible AR (in a few easy steps).”
A lot of people maybe are confused about VR and AR, so can you give an explanation the difference in those two fields?
I actually have a magic slide that illustrates the continuum with hands and gestures. There is what’s called the virtual continuum that talks about how we relate to the physical and the virtual. On one hand, we have physical reality, which we all know and love, which means that we have physical experiences within a physical space.
On the very other end of the spectrum, we have virtual reality, which means that we have digital experiences within a digital space. So when we have a 3D game that we experience via headset, that’s virtual reality. And that’s very clear, but everybody get confused about all the middle part, which is the mixed reality. And there we have two core technologies, one is augmented virtuality, which is closer to virtual reality. We know it as 360 videos, and what we do there is we take content from the physical world and we experience it digitally. So if we have a 360 video of Mt. Everest and we experience it via headset that’s augmented virtuality.
And then last but not least, my favorite, my precious augmented reality, which means that we take digital experiences and we experience them in a physical space. And that’s a really interesting notion, because we have the potential to tap into the infinite digital content and narratives and apply it into a world that we all know how to interact with, so it’s quite powerful.
What are some ways that we can get people interested in AR more?
That’s the one-million dollar question, and I have two answers for that. One is great, great AR experiences. There’s no way around it, if we don’t create great experiences, people won’t be using it, so all the money that is being invested now had been invested more on hardware and less on content creation and it’s necessary to have the technology developed but it will be the acutal narrative and the experiences that will make people engaged.
[W]e have the potential to tap into the infinite digital content and narratives and apply it into a world that we all know how to interact with.
And the second part is of course time. We have to learn and be a little bit more patient with introducing emerging technologies. It takes months, years, sometimes decades. And it’s not about the superiority of the technology, but people need to adapt. There’s an …. there. There’s so many things that need to be linked together in order for technology to succeed, so we just need to give it a breather. There’s time. Everything is good.
As far as development, gaming seems to be a big first step with new technology. Do you feel that gaming plays a positive role in the development of these technologies?
Definitely. They have an audience that is willing to push the envelope in terms of adaptation, in terms of experimentation. So they are definitely one of the core industries. There are other industries, the military, as we all know, that develops a lot of hardware and software. They have the funds, they have the urgent need to develop things quicker. And an industry that no one likes to talk about, pornography.
But it’s true. Online payment, real-time streaming, DVD. It’s also an industry whose users are very willing to experiment in order to advance their experience. So there are quite a few industries, and it’s quite important to try and tap into all of them. I think gaming is a major part of it, we saw that with Pokemon Go. Because fun is something we get attached to quite easily.
In a previous talk, you spoke about “breaking the mirror,” when that gap between screen and real life is shattered. What are some of the dangers of breaking the mirror?
Well, the dangers are whoever breaks the mirror is human and flawed and we tend to act first and think later. So the moment that technology will be embedded within our physical space. That means that we have access to limitless content. And it’s a big question who’s behind whose content? Who creates the narratives that are embedded in our reality? Who can hack into our reality and nudge us, and we’re already seeing, even in behind-the-screen experiences that there’s a lot of use of pervasive and persuasive architecture or dark UX. And that’s done by mainstream advertisement, brands, and entities.
That will happen in real time and real space, that’s a reason to be concerned about. And it will happen. So it is a problem, it is a danger, and it will happen. What I’m trying to go through my talks and through my book and through connecting and talking with policy makers as well as with policy makers is to try to explain to everyone that this will happen and we need to take steps now to ensure that it won’t. Because it’s a bad experience for the user, it’s a bad business policy to do that, especially now that people are getting more aware of it. And it’s not the purpose of technology. We’re supposed to better the human experience via technology, right? So, why do it?
What would be your dream AR experience?
It’s about the ability to act on your personal fantasies and aspiration and be able to live through it. Of course another experience, and I also talk about it in my talk is the whole Star Trek experience. I’m a Trekkie, obviously, and yes, it’s quite … to submerge all your aspiration and have this infinite, wonderful world around you, as long as it’s controlled and doesn’t just create escapism, I think it’s a great tool.
And a lot of this is explained in your book, Augmenting Alice.
Yes. So, this is my book. It’s not a manual on how to do AR, but this book contextualizes AR and VR. It focuses on the impact of AR within a societal, political, economical, and even spiritual context.