Lenses Augment Reality

Posted in Gaming, MediaArt, Society and Technology by tpdr on March 29, 2009

This post is related to an article of March 2008 on the WIRED-blog.

If you would ask the Pentagon and DARPA (the technological department of the US military that also ‘invented’ the Internet), soldiers will, in three to five years from now, see all information needed in front of them at any given time. How they want to do this? Simple, you create a new kind of lenses that work as a projection screen, but remain transparant, thus adding a digital layer to reality. Of course it sounds really easy like this but how do you create this kind of ‘screen’ and how do you feed it with power and data? DARPA is thinking about lasers, light-emitting diodes, …, ‘metamaterials’ . Like they said before they will be spending about 3 million $ on technical research, no doubt this will pay off. Maybe they even could be exchanging know-how with the University of Washington, since they are working on a similar ‘gadget’.

Wearing these lenses would be like walking around in the ‘real-world’ as if you were playing a first person shooting game. Of course I don’t need to say this technology will be found usefull in non-military situations as well. Why not use this kind of lenses to replace these gps-devices we carry around? Or even use them to get all kinds of information when walking around, lets say the supermarket? Think of looking at products and seeing the prices, ingredients, etc. right in front of your eyes without having to take the product of the shelf. Will this be a positive evolution? Maybe if you didn’t, you should now read another post related to augmented reality titled ‘Augmented Unreality’.

I will of course keep an eye on the development of this technology and if any of you knows more, please leave a comment. I am sure I will be more interested in the way this could be used to play games in the ‘real world’, than how it will be used as a navigation-system. As with maps I prefer the power of subjective/personal cartography to the so called ‘objective’ maps.

Augmented Unreality

Posted in Society and Technology by tpdr on February 6, 2009

This post is based on the interesting article ‘Disputing Augmented Unreality’ by Keir Neuringer in TAG MAG 06 ‘Augmented Reality, Superimposing the Virtual, published by <>TAG

Imagine this, I am walking a mountain trial and all of a sudden the weather changes so I have to get as quickly as possible to a shelter, but there is no such place for hours. I panic but then again I have this Augmented Reality device with me. These glasses function as a projection screen on the inside adding a layer of digital/virtual information to the reality I see watching through the glasses. The device calculates my route to safety, using GPS data cross-referenced with weather info from Internet and thus taking also into account the conditions of the environment, access to water and my own physical condition as it also monitors my heart rate with a sensor, etc. All this superimposed information makes me calm down and I am on my way to safety. Still I would rather leave the device at home. this story was told by the writer of the article, Keir Neuringer and I agreed, which I will explain later.

1) Neuringer states that Augmented Reality doesn’t actually change reality as we can not qualify or quantify reality. Disputing reality we would end up in insanity or art. Augmented reality, like mobile phones, the Internet and anything that can be abstracted from specific perceptions of time, space and connectivity, threatens the notion of the local. The largets entity that we can grasp as local is this planet and all its tangible, physical aspects that others experience. If we watch somebody drink water, we can not taste it but our memory can trigger a memory of the taste of water, which is empathy. An AR device might allow us to ctually taste water even though it is not there, which is insane.

2) Keir Neuringer remarks that with ubiquitous computing, data of things we make can be networked. He is actually convinced that birds, earthworms,etc.and people awake to their unaugmented senses are also networked and syncing too. He knows this because if he spents a certain time away from devices, walking in the mountains, the more he feels alive to the world around him, he doesn’t need devices to connect his perceptions amongst them or to facilitate the connectivity to his surroundings.

3) As his conclusion he writes: There is a layer of experience and perception and action that is augmentable. He believes art can dispute reality when artists address it forthrightly and bring creativity to bear on the enigma of being, on problems and beauty embedded in our perceptions. And by sharing in reality, consciously and with clarity. Which is to say sanely.

Personally I agreed earlier with his conclusion of his little story about the mountain walk because I feel the same way just using a GPS navigation system. I rather use a map or get lost. Why? Because these devices feel so totalitarian, telling where to go and which way to take, but more importantly, these devices stop you from thinking. Outsourcing ‘thinking’ to me feels like a dangerous thing to do. I don’t want to make this sound too conservative, I just want to say we have to think about what these devices do to us and make sure they don’t make us weaker in the end. Somewhere in the article Neuringer also mentions that he also could have used a map, could hav learned about the fauna and flora in relation to this mountain, etc. but it is easier to just take a device and make it tell us all of this and turning ourselves into passive receivers. I would just want to be someone who is not a fool for gadgets but takes their consequences into account and decides afterwards if it is a necessity to have this or that device or not. And to put in a positive note, I still believe for every device that makes us stop thinking, there is always a way to use it to exercise our thinking.

Yolande Harris

Posted in MediaArt by tpdr on December 1, 2008

Yolande Harris / Composer & media-artist / Explores relation between architecture, sound & image / Project example: Sun Run Sun


First of all, working as a composer with both audio and image, it became clear to her that sound doesn’t draw your attention as quickly as images that get to us much faster. A second remark she makes is that, as she likes to investigate the relations between sound, technology and environments, it became clear how little environments and landscapes are discussed in the media arts.


Looking at landscapes from different points of view she also uses GPS and thus satellite information. As these data are used for her compositions, creating the sounds, what we hear is actually the external space, which wraps the space we live in. Even though this all sounds really scientific, her first goal is to confront the audience with something it is not always aware. She won’t present it as a neutral reality but will try to provoke a certain emotional response and as the raw data becomes subjective at some point in the process, thus creating the possibility of multiple interpretations.


Talking about interpretations and connotations, it is clear that indirectly these satellites are connected with the military, communication, etc. This doesn’t bother her at all, but what she finds most interesting is the fact that GPS technology tells us at any time where we are. You can not get lost anymore these days and it will take you from point A to point B in a way that you stop thinking about the environment you are in. GPS has split navigation from the environment, it has disconnected the ‘knowing where you are’ from the ‘knowledge of the environment’. I always found GPS technology undermines the orientation skills and it seems to me that Yolande agrees. In my opinion she is totally right when she says new technologies make our lives easier, but one should always be aware of the fact that at the same time we risk losing a lot of what we already know and, more specifically in relation to the subject of the satellites, our fundamental engagement to our environment. Fully aware of this phenomenon she has become fascinated by working towards a hybrid between technologically aided and intuitive embodied navigation, or as she calls it the techno-intuition.

This article is based on: A Journey Through Sound; An Interview with Yolande Harris by Carmen Hutting and Annet Dekker – Tagmag 05 – Eco Aesthetics