"Twenty-one years later, an anonymous software engineer pulled together various digital artifacts to create a multiplayer game for his son.
Tonight, while playing that game, I ran into my 15-year-old self."
What magic smells like.
19 June 2011
Kevin‘s talk from Momo Amsterdam a few weeks back. I know it’s been linked elsewhere, but really, it’s marvellous, and if you’ve ever used “AR” in a meeting or room – or even been in a meeting or room where it’s been mentioned – you need to sit down and watch this. It is a good 26 minutes of your time.
I, personally, am very bored of screens as magic windows, especially when they have to be held between the eye and the world; the Wii U video with the controller held up between eye and TV made me very sad.
Using screens liks this turns them into a kind of “reality gobo“. So much optical AR suggests it’s overlaying information on reality, and thus augmenting it – but really it sits between our senses and reality, getting in the way.
Optical AR, viewed through screens, derived from markers, or marker-less technologies, or through QR or barcodes or god knows what else, I think – I hope – will feel like a distraction, a false turn, in the years to come. And yet right now, it’s cropping up in more and more places in increasingly irrelevant implementations. And if I don’t care, why will a consumer? There are many wonderful ways to augment reality, many wonderful learnings to gain from new sensory input (be it seeing through satellites or feeling, at a distance, when a bridge opens). But this whole cameras, screens, and gobos thing? Tiring. Not to mention: computationally expensive for under-rewarding output.
And so: that talk felt like a solid distillation of a bunch of truths, backed with excellent examples and a lovely thread. Also, I always enjoy watching Kevin talk; he’s a coherent and thoughtful speaker.
As a footnote: I also liked Greg Smith’s astute take on the talk:
…the initial buzz was slightly misleading as it suggested that the presentation was an outright dismissal of AR. I don’t really think this was the case… My reading of the talk is that Slavin is extremely curious about augmenting reality—as praxis—and suggesting we (startups, developers and consumers) need to be considerably more thoughtful in our application/exploration of the emerging medium and consider how it might activate other senses – AR should not distill down to “an overlay for all seasons”.
I think the key takeaway point is in Slavin’s suggestion that “reality is augmented when it feels different, not looks different” – which basically echoes Marcel Duchamp’s (almost) century-old contempt for the ‘retinal bias’ of the art market. If AR development (thus far) is lacking imagination, perhaps the problem is that we’re very much tethering the medium to our antiquated VR pipe dreams and the web browser metaphor.