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Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery - creating a mixed reality. - Wikipedia

I'm currently reading Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta in anticipation of my trip to Mumabi in a couple weeks. Whether a longer work like Maximum City or Michner's Poland, or just a travel guidebook or hotel description on TripAdvisor, I always read about the places to which I travel prior to going there.*

Why? Because, of course, it "augments" reality.

Knowing the stories of a place give visiting it meaning. A temple, a fortress, or a house is just building materials unless one thinks about the people that have worshipped, fought or lived there.**

Reader/travellers have always known that reality is better augmented with information. Even before iPods.

* I believe this trait may be hereditary. I sent grandson Paul a kid's guide to DisneyWorld a couple months before we visited. He had the facts about every attraction memorized before stepping foot inside the parks.

** The opposite holds true as well - visiting a place can augment reading. On leaving a tour of the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, my then teenage son turned to me and said, "I didn't realize Anne Frank was a real person." I'll bet he's not the only student who's had that misconception.

The 2007 version of augmented reality.

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Reader Comments (6)


You cannot augment reality any more than you can redecorate Plato's cave.

You can re-frame it, twirl it in your head, even become a U.S. Senator without ever seeing anything clearly, but when we augment perception with words, we are not augmenting, we are interpreting.

Which is fine....

(I teach sophomores--if people had any idea how disconnected the young'uns are from the empirical world, they'd realize that your grandfather's "reality" has been effectively dismantled.)

((It's February--I am in open-throttle crank mode. Even Snowmageddon cannot stop me!))

February 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Doyle

I think I'm in the "other way around camp"--I find guidebooks (and related reading) much more interesting AFTER traveling to a place, because I can picture the place that's being described. Although, of course, the information on where to eat and stay is a lot more useful beforehand!

February 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLibby

I like the Stella Artois app that points out all of the locations you can get a beer in any city:) I wouldn't dwell on the name. It's just a way to name this layered technology. Pretty soon we won't remember when we didn't have it on all of our personal communication devices.

February 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDottie

Hi Michael,

I suppose the next thing you will be taking me to task for is saying "more unique."

Irregardless, I actually like "reality augmentation" better. Sounds kind of racey!

Enjoy your snow.


Hi Libby,

I've done this a time or two myself. I remember going to the Story of Texas museum in Austin and feeling the need to re-read Michener's Texas!


Hi Dottie,

So you'd use augmented reality to find a way to escape reality by drinking. I love the irony!

I suspect you are right about the eventuality of not remembering not having this. Gee, haven't we ALWAYS had cell phones???


February 8, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

I read this article . This is a good article. I like Stella Artois app that remembers all the places you get a beer at any time in the city. I don't want to dwell on the name. It's just a way to name this layered technology. This time I did one or two myself. I remember the history museum in Austin Texas and feel the need to re-read.

Mr. Doyle seems to misunderstand the purpose of "augmented reality" or the means used to achieve it. The term "augmented reality" is used to describe the information given about things, buildings, places, people, et cetera. Though this is best accomplished with RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags, global data obtained from the Internet, while useful, can be just as useful. In practice, AR displays information. Point the filter at a tagged building containing a store and it displays the store name, address and telephone number, as well as any information relevant or anything else the owners might wish to advertise, such as sales on certain items or specials they may have in effect.

Your comparison to "redecorating Plato's cave" was as amusing as it was irrelevant. Our grandfathers' "reality" is still the same--we simply have newer technologies now, and new filters to perceive them with. Whether one is a "young'un," a belligerent middle-ager or a crotchety old fuck makes no difference. Either you adapt and survive or you fall behind, and sometimes to adapt you have to learn. No excuses.

Nostalgia won't save you; it will only slow you down.

So Doug, what's your favorite AR app so far?

May 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTony Inman

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