Pushing the boundaries of virtual and augmented reality #ARTS3091

29 Mar


The effects that “virtual” and/or augmented” reality has on humans provide a broad platform for sociological debate. Wikipedia defines augmented reality as,


“…a live, copy, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data…” (Wikipedia 2014)


Paul Dourish describes this notion as an “embodiment of computers”. He argues that the development of computer technology has resulted in computer systems occupying “our world of physical and social reality”. It is interesting to think about whether embodied interaction is enhancing or diminishing our reality… and how far we can actually stretch the limits of augmented reality to make it a reality


Is it possible that we could get to the point of augmenting friends or dates? That fluttery feeling when meeting someone you’re attracted to – could it be transformed into “augmented reality”? For those lonely soles out there who have tried every way to find the ultimate man or woman (speed, online, blind dating etc), it seems that – judging from the current speed of 21st Century technological developments –  the creation of a virtual “Mr Right” might indeed be possible.


Although both a worrying and intriguing thought, I personally don’t think augmented reality could be stretched this far. The excitement of really getting to know someone – discovering their hobbies, likes/dislikes, past and even their mannerisms could arguably not be simply “augmented”. Even if it could be, the intimate interactions loved ones share could definitely not.


This possibility of augmented friends and dates aligns with the idea of robots taking our jobs. Sarah Gardner, in her article, “A robot for every job” suggests that humans will no longer be needed to work in factories,

“More than a million industrial robots work in manufacturing plants all over the world already.  And they’re getting smaller, cheaper and smarter all the time” (Gardner 2013)

She stresses the concerns of economists, who believe that the development of robots will leave many “no or low-skilled workers” unemployed. American scholar and businessman, Warren G. Bennis, reinforces the idea of robot work-place domination:

“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” (Gardner 2013)


Even though robots have evidently seem to be acquiring human abilities:

Advancements in robotics are continually taking place in the fields of space exploration, health care, public safety, entertainment, defense, and more. (see http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/robots-at-work-and-play/100389/ for some interesting examples) (Taylor 2012)

There are still arguably many flaws in this theory of robot domination. Firstly, humans are not stupid – we are adaptable. We live in a face pace word of technological development that continue to offer new and interesting types of jobs. Furthermore, robots may actually be offering many people (who are likely stuck in jobs they hate) a liberating opportunity to find a job that is more challenging and motivating.


One must be carful to make generalized assumptions on the supposed effects of augmented reality and embodied interaction. Even though computers play a major role in conducting and enhancing our everyday lives, there is a line that remains drawn between real and virtual.  It is arguable that the sensitivities of a human being could never be remade, and that virtual “beings” could never actually dominate our ever-adapting and developing world.




Anon. (n.d.) ‘Augmented Reality’, Wikipedia, accessed 28 March 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality


Anon. (n.d.) ‘Virtual Reality’, Wikipedia, accessed 29 March 2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality


Dourish, Paul (2004) ‘A History of Interaction’, in Where the Action Is: The

Foundations of Embodied Interaction, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press: 1-23.


Gardner, Sarah (2013) ’A Robot for Every Job’, Marketplace.org, February

18, accessed 28 March 2014 http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/robots-ate-my-job/robot-every-job


Taylor, Alan (2012) ’Robots at Work and Play’, In Focus, October 17, accessed 28 March 20114 http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/robots-at-work-and-play/100389/


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