Reality and Virtuality

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mediated_reality_continuum_2d.png)

It’s easiest to start with a picture. Especially a picture which attempts to put reality into a little box. Here we have the spectrum of mediated reality, from unmodified reality in the bottom-left corner to severely mediated virtuality diagonally opposite. In between we come across mediated virtuality and augmented reality, all of these terms blurring what truly constitutes pure reality.

What is unmodified reality? What could this possibly mean?

Surely every aspect of our reality is modified by some extent and new media is achieving this ongoing modification in increasingly inventive ways.

Virtual reality has dominated public consciousness for a long time, particularly focusing on the supposed benefits and dangers of virtual world games such as Second Life and World of Warcraft. Increasingly though, attention is turning to Augmented Reality and the opportunities this poses for not just gaming but social networking, business, commercial activities (particularly e-shopping), music creation and much more. The various directions of Augmented Reality are explored by Chris Grayson in his blog post Augmented Reality Overview.

I agree with Grayson when he states that he doesn’t believe Virtual Reality will really take off until we are “in there versus looking there”. This is where Augmented Reality is so exciting. It is a far more immersive bodily experience. By incorporating computer generated data into our physical environment the sense of reality is far greater. The various videos linked to on Chris Grayson’s video stretch from cute novelty, to useful and informative to what I believe has crossed the barrier to creepy . The Loopt i-Phone app in particular was a little much for me. This app involved discovering the exact locations of your friends, what and where they were eating, how they felt about what they were eating and where they were. Sam Altman, the CEO of Loopt stated that this app was ‘making serendipity happen’ but I believe this was killing the very notion of serendipity, the idea of an unexpected pleasurable discovery is well nigh impossible with this app. In this reality everything is known beforehand.

Slightly more positively, the following is one of my favourite examples of augmented reality –  not life-changing or with any particular utility but just really beautiful.Here reality and virtuality are wonderfully blended into a media form which has become hideously stagnant, the music video.

Arcade Fire – The Wilderness Downtown

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