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May 20th, 2009


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02:16 pm - Thoughts on Perception and Augmented Reality
I spent several hours talking with my friend Aaron last night, and in the course of the sort of vast and rambling conversations that we typically have, I mentioned this particular advanced towards augmented reality, and Aaron's response was exceedingly thought-provoking. He mentioned that one problem that he's seen is that people can only take in so much information and that most people privilege brightly colored graphics and suchlike over reality. Thus, one risk of what now seems to be the almost inevitable rise of augmented reality is that people looking at the images on screens or projected by glasses or contact lens displays and not at the world around them – not seeing the tree for the graphic display about the tree.

I have very mixed feelings about this. I love the idea of augmented reality, both in the aspect of instant information being available about every object that I look at, and even more the aspect of it that involves transforming the entire world into a vast electronic conversation of descriptions and commentary, where no data is ever lost and multiple layers of meaning can be visibly layered on top of people, places, and objects. However, the idea of people ceasing to notice (except as obstacles to be walked around) many of the very objects being described is far less positive. While clearly not a reason to eschew this technology, it is definitely something to consider.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

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Comments:


From:wdstarr
Date:May 20th, 2009 11:25 pm (UTC)
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Without taking a side myself, I will point out that it seems a bit... prejudicial, for want of a better word, for you and your friend to ascribe terms like "problem" and "risk" to what is/will be other people's choices (active or passive) as to how they choose to interact with the universe outide of their heads.
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From:heron61
Date:May 21st, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
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Absolutely, and given that human minds are limited in the amount of simtulous they can pay attention to at once, I'm not at all certain what features will end up being ignored.
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From:slothman
Date:May 21st, 2009 12:14 am (UTC)
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Plenty of people are already only looking at the world without seeing it; I don’t see this as making much of a difference to that. If anything, being able to use different filters to see reality in different ways might make people better at recognizing what’s really there.

The app that I might have trouble turning off would be the one the processes my entire visual field using a high dynamic range filter.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:May 21st, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
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There are clearly some places where augmented reality should not be used:

1. While driving. Same reason you don't text and drive. (If you text and drive, you should have your license ripped up in front of you.)

2. While walking down the street. You might not notice a car coming and end up getting hit.
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From:heron61
Date:May 21st, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
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Actually, driving or any other critical task is where such things would be most vital. Having constantly updating displays that don't require looking down to see would be a major aid in preventing auto accidents (especially if blindspot warnings and warnings about distances behind the car were included).
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From:aekiy
Date:May 21st, 2009 07:07 am (UTC)
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This is part of a concern I'd considered mentioning, but didn't, on your previous entry. More particularly, there are technical issues involving information overload, where already in cities people's mental states are greatly impacted by the human-targeted information around them. Studies have demonstrated that brains work a lot harder in cities than they do in traditional environs, from which we've evolved. While I love the idea of having all sorts of information available all the time, there are issues revolving our own cognitive limitations.
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From:xuenay
Date:May 21st, 2009 07:39 am (UTC)
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On the other hand, there's some evidence that increasing our cognitive demands has led to our cognitive capacity increasing to compensate, as we "get more practice". (Many of the training effects seem domain-specific and do not transfer to other skills, but some exercises seem more general.) In the best case, augmented reality could literally make us smarter.
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From:aekiy
Date:May 21st, 2009 08:13 am (UTC)
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That would definitely be wonderful, and it's good to see counter-evidence, but I do still wonder how much the human brain, as it exists today, can really handle in its day-to-day activity without itself being heavily augmented — something which is a bit trickier to manage. I have a bias in focus, of course, resulting from my own health-related cognitive deficits.
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From:heron61
Date:May 21st, 2009 09:29 am (UTC)
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The fact that our nervous system is flexible enough to allow us to easily learn to use extra senses provides at least a good indication that we may learn to perceive more than we can without loss, but I suspect that doing so will require effort and perhaps special training, since it will clearly simply be easier to get lost in the bright and flashy graphics. I wonder how the young children who will almost certainly grow up with this tech will deal this technology - I suspect their perceptions may be very different from our own, unless we make a special effort to learn to use this technology well.
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From:aekiy
Date:May 21st, 2009 06:14 pm (UTC)
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I do worry about things like increased attention deficits or a loss of touch with reality by a distraction of information flow. I also don't believe there's any reason to slow development of these technologies, either, just to keep an awareness that every advancement creates both benefits and problem, and we'll need to keep working to better ourselves and our technology.
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From:feedle
Date:May 21st, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
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Augmented Reality is one of those buzzwords that in many ways demonstrates that computer technologists should be kept in the laboratory and away from the press. Like it's cousin, "Virtual Reality", it is in many ways a problem looking for a solution.

The "future" of augmented reality systems isn't in putting little graphics into people's vision. That's a "Lawnmower Man" view, and it's likely we'll never see systems like that in practical use.

What is very likely is that we'll gain additional SENSES through electronic apparatus, typically through physical sensation (and probably later, direct neuron stimulus). I'm presently building a variation of a device that uses a cell phone "buzz" motor to provide you a physical sensation that tells you what direction you are pointing. In my version, it will simply buzz whenever I'm facing magnetic north.

People who have built these sorts of augmented senses have discovered that your brain literally "rewires" to these senses. After a period of adjustment, you begin to literally have an additional "sense". In the directional experiment, people find their spacial relations and navigation abilities dramatically change. They no longer even have to "think" about where they are going, or even how they are getting there.

And what's stranger is that they become equally disoriented when they "lose" the sense (because the equipment is malfunctioning, or not even being worn).

This is more likely than putting graphics into your visual space. It requires no obnoxious hardware, and will truly "augment" your perceptions without degrading your existing ones.
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From:blue_estro
Date:May 22nd, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC)

ObSemanticHuffiness

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Augmented Reality is one of those buzzwords that in many ways demonstrates that computer technologists should be kept in the laboratory and away from the press. Like it's cousin, "Virtual Reality", it is in many ways a problem looking for a solution.

Er, how about the sensationalism driven press quit reporting inaccurately on stuff they don't understand?

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