Cinematic depictions of AR

It seems inevitable that Augmented Reality will arrive in some shape or form - the experience of using computers keeps getting smaller and more mobile.

Remember when you had a PC tucked away in a dark room? One day we will remember hunching over laptops and staring into our phones in a similar way.

Here I have collected some clips that depict AR as a way to explore how people think things might play out.

Naturally Google’s commercial for Glass is an idealised vision with mostly helpful information overlays and hands free sharing of sunset videos (how else are you going to strum your ukelele…).

Glass competitor Meta has a slightly more fantastical version of the same thing, but they seem to be interested in targeting early adopters in the hacker / gamer market (mute the awful voice over):

I saw another concept clip recently (from Vuzix I think), but I am wondering if it has been pulled because I can’t find it.

There was something awkward about its scenes of a modern family with big smiles, and all eyes hidden behind bulky black head sets.

Once we get into the realm of narrative fiction things get more interesting.

When writers for mainstream culture turn their attention to the subject of technology the result is typically a dystopia.

It’s the fate of much technology in the popular consciousness - to be first feared, briefly the subject of amazement, then taken for granted and cursed for inevitable failings.

Usually its only when gadgets are supplemental to the story that they are they depicted in a positive light (as eye candy) - like in the Iron Man films:

Minority Report has been so influential that it is hard not to mention it - despite that fact that its interactive 3-d displays might not strictly fit the definition of AR.

The future world of Minority Report was so well considered that it may be worth taking note of this.

Even if AR is realised as a consumer product it doesn’t mean that all people will use it at all times, people may even reject it except for in specialised scenarios.

The idea of targeted consumerism is taken a step further in Keiichi Matsuda’s 3-d short film where people use AR to redecorate the world around them, but are also chased by swarms of messages and advertisements:

The world becoming saturated with advertising is perhaps the most obvious fear when it comes to AR.

I’m sure Google et al will be very careful about this so as not to hurt adoption rates, but if the technology becomes part of everyday life then ads will inevitably find their way in - at least for those who cant afford to pay. It’s a marketers wet dream, to quite literarily have captive eyeballs on screens.

The short film Sight explores a range of concepts - the potential for gaming, that we might gamify our relationships and daily activities, and the dark side of the power given to corporations that hold our data.

Some of the concerns in this film are echoed as popular concerns in Robert Scoble’s post about his experience using glass - that we will end up too immersed in technology, and even that we will become its puppets:

The darkest exploration of all is perhaps one of the simplest.

In the UK series Black Mirror Charlie Booker explores what it might mean when we can record, share, and review every moment of our lives (with digital enhancements).

In episode The Entire History of You a relationship is destroyed when an obsessive husband takes a jealous suspicion too far (watch the entire series if you can get it, its pretty amazing):

In Spike Jonze’s film Her the UI is almost all voice based.

While I think this is a smart move for making a character driven film about an AI, I don’t think speech as a primary UI is all that practical. There’s privacy to think about, and also the general logistics of background noise.

Voice control is a good feature, but I cant imagine it taking over from more discreet methods of input / output.

But its a nice note to end on so I have included the trailer:

Aside from the relationship with the AI (some will doubtlessly see it as contentious), I think Her draws a very good picture of the near future.

People frequently disengage from their devices (switch off), there is old style gear (monitors etc) as well as a range of new stuff (voice based super AI, holographic video games), and people continue to have very real human emotional needs despite their proximity to advanced technology.

And its not exactly a dystopia - if anything it stylistically fits the tone of the slick, emotive, life affirming commercials created by Apple & Google (I’m pretty sure one of those also picked a soundtrack by The Arcade Fire).

People don’t adopt a technology if the world it creates seems to be a nightmare.


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Blog Archive: Snap Together Computers

Note: Originally posted April ‘12. Looking back on this idea I think it still needs a lot of work. But I was flicking through a magazine the other day and came across Dave Hakken’s Phonebloks Project. Its neat to see that someone else... Continue →