John D Radcliff, Specializing in Interactive Technology & Education!

Is augmented reality the new virtual reality?

        Virtual reality places a person in a simulated environment were as augmented reality is a part of a person's environment and enhances a person's current perception of reality.  If we look at the quote "But it is important to remember that virtual community originates in, and must return to, the physical forgetting about the body is an old Cartesian trick" (113).  VR up to this point has always been an act of putting on a helment and being thrusted into a computer generated world which takes us into a different world visually.


        I believe we are headed into a world of augmented reality and that virtual reality is a thing of the past.  You must have the body and mind be of one, separation of the two will never bring a true sense of reality in any environment.  I recently tried the new Kinect video game Fighters Uncaged.  The game play was not very desirable so you could only do moves that the game was designed to pickup (i.e. you can try to do an upper cut and your character will kick).  What I did like after playing the game was I was sweating and had a great workout.  I have seen this with the WII fit games which has you control characters on the T.V. in a fitness type program by using wireless bands strapped to your arms and legs.  This is the true merge of body and mind in the real world.  If we look at Virtual Reality in the same sense then we have to throw away the VR helment and go with an augmented reality. 

        The 3D T.V. is the trying the same concept by having the viewer put on a pair of 3D glasses to have images popup out of the T.V. screen to create a new viewing experience.  Here in lies the same problem as with the VR helments, after about 5 minutes or less of wearing these glasses your eyes will start to become strained and you get a really bad headache.  So trying to trick the body by visually fooling the mind does not work for long periods of time and only takes into account one of the five senses.  This is why augemented reality as seen from the WII and XBOX Kinect video game systems, is the better choice to date since it is interacting with a person in their environment instead of bringing someone into an alternate reality.  Now if you could combine the elements of Second Life with the controls of the WII or Kinect systems then this would be the next biggest evolution in online interactivity. 


        What is great about Second Life is how you can create your own fully customizable avatar, then build your own world, and interact with people from around the world.  Not only that but you can buy and sell realestate, start your own business, or work for someone all inside of the Second Life realm.  Now if you could be given the option of either controlling your avatar by using your body movements then we are getting closer to having a true full body interactive online experience.  The other part of this is the full submersive part were a person can experience themselves in an alternate reality which looks and feels like real life. 

        The book keeps referencing the movie Strange Days that has a device called "the wire" which has a person go into a dream hypnotic state when wearing this electronic device.  The person is able to feel, see and experience everything in this dream state world which resembles real life.  I believe this is another part of the evolution of augmented reality except with the person being fully awake.  The future of augumented reality will be the ability to experience a fully immersed digital world that will look like the real world.  The issues of wearing equipment on the eyes or "jacking" into a digital world by plugging an electronic device into your head, will not be necessary. 

        A person needs to be awake and have all of the senses stimulated, not just the nervous system.  Using a device that has a person go into a dream or alternate sleep state (Like in the Movie Strange Days or Surrogates) has the body become physically weak while the mind is "jacking into" an online digital world.  This is were a person is in an alternate world and has no sense of their real physical body since everything in this digital world feels very real.  People want to stay in this digital world forever while their body is withering away due to neglect of the physical.   As I mentioned earlier, a person needs to have balance of both physical and mental.  To achieve this state, a transparent interface would be necessary were a person no longer is aware of confronting a medium. 

        Interactivity then becomes a series of interacting with holograms or projected 3D images which encompass site, sound, taste, touch and smell.  Truly this is the issue we face in that how do we as a human beings emulate all of our sensory devices in a digital world?  The interactive environments or devices of the future will need to have a person experience the smell of a pine wood forest, feel the cool mist of the ocean, touch rough tree bark or even taste a piece of fruit.  Once this is accomplished, then people will be able to accept an augmented reality with very few limiations or liabilities.

Is Digital Media eroding away at our cultural values?

        "Radical changes of identity, happening suddenly and in very brief intervals of time, have proved more deadly and destructive of human values then wars fought with hardware weapons " (Laws of Media, Marshall and Eric Mcluhan, 97).  The authors concern is that not enough art (right hemisphere) and too much logic (left hemisphere) will erode our culture.  The author goes on to say that "new service environments of information has left whole populations without personal or community values."  I think main stream media has created a problem with people losing their culture, values and ideals.  For example, take some of the crappy t.v. shows that create a lot of drama and produce nothing of value.  I tried watching the show "Desperate Housewives" which for me was a very high drama show with nothing of value.  After watching one episode, I asked myself "wow, what was the point of this show and did anything come out of it?"  My answer was nothing and I have never watched it again.  This is just more enterainment and people look at it in this way with no discussions being had, just more noise surrounding the drama.  This is were the author makes a good point, of our society "eroding away" which can be directly realated to bad television programming.  Medawar sees motor accessories as an extenstion of ourselves and are there to enhance our lives by creating convience and lessening hardship. 

        Sensory objects, like the T.V. has a different effect on people which is nothing of an extension of a person but an object which can be used to entertain, educate, or be complete nonsense and a waste of time.  According to an online article, "The Good and Bad effects of TV on Your Kid", kids watching cartoons and entertainment television during pre-school years have poorer pre-reading skills at age 5 (Macbeth, 1996).  This is true if parents do not restrict and or monitor what their children watch.  The T.V. has a lot of subliminal messages to try and sell or convience people into different ideals and ways of thinking which may not be true.  This is why not only monitoring but having deeper discussions about media, especially digital media is critical.


        T.V., if used properly, can be a great tool for educating people and can help to preserve our cultural views and values.  Take for example The History Channel, which talks about historical events and shows the viewer what we have learned from history.  The history of World War II, talked about how the world mobilized against Germany, Italy, and Japan.  Then showed after the war how the world advanced in medicine, transportation and communication technologies.  This is one of the many great educational programs that The History Channel provides for people.  Science ficiton shows like Stargate SG-1 have a very interesting storyline and at the end of each show reveal a lesson that was learned.  Having these type of programs or well written T.V. series, can keep the cultural values alive and people educated.  Digital media, especially T.V., need to combine and promote more elements of quality enterainment like The History Channel and Stargate SG-1 type programs.

        As T.V. has started to go online (, Netflix, Youtube, etc.) it has given us more choices and freedom to watch the programs that are of interest to us.  So these new digital media platforms can provide everything that T.V. can provide and more which can help us preserve our values, culture and identity.  I believe that people can choose to watch and discuss digital media in a way that is fun yet constructive.  My girlfriend and I have cut out cable T.V. completely and watch only movies or Netflix programs that are worthwhile.  We then discuss the programs or movies that we are watching which opens up a lot of different discussions.  Last night, we watched the movie, The Rite and had a great discussion about exorcisims and the Catholic religion.  Another show we watched was Prison Break on Netflix which we discussed some of the believable and unbelievable events that happened on the show.  This is were I believe digital media can be an "extension of a person" in that what can be learned or taken away from a digital media experience is the key 
to preserving cultural values and intellectual inquiries.   It is not just about the experience but the overall feeling, development, inquiry and reasoning behind what we get out of digital media. 

First Week Assignment, mental laziness and information overload

          One issue I see in the readings and video is that people are overwhelmed with information.  This allows people to become out of touch with themselves, other people and allow their minds to become lazy.

        For example, Socrates would not write anything down since he existed in an oral culture who saw writing as a new technology.  The only way we were able to get access to his works was through his students who wrote down his oral presentations.  Plato's Socrates states that writing destroys memory and that someone who uses writing will become forgetful.  He saw writing as a new form of technology which distracted and disconnected people.  He felt that oral presentations were the way that people could truly express themselves and authentically connect with other people. 

        In today's world we are relying more on technology to think or process information for us instead of thinking for ourselves.  We are so overloaded with information we do not really connect or think about things or people, instead we just react.  For example, we have our cell phones or mobile devices with us and on all the time.  When our phones ring or buzz we feel obliagated to answer them.  Then when our technology breaks or we forget our technology (leave our cell phone at home), we fell naked and lost.  The same is true when communicating with people or trying to do a math calculation in our head.  Instead of trying to do the math calculation in our head, we pull out our cell phone and use the built in calculator to solve the problem.  This eliminates errors and increases accuracy but also makes us dependent on a device to solve a problem for us.

        In the realm of communication, we have gone from talking to people on the phone to having the phone communicate or talk to people for us.  This can be seen as people being lazy or covert when wanting to communicate as seen when people use text messaging.  A couple of days ago, I was on a conference call and asked someone on the call to call another person who was not on the call.  Instead of calling the individual they sent a text message to the person which did not have the same impact of dialing the other persons number to have them be on the call.  This is easier to do but makes us evasive and lazy not wanting to use our mental energy to engage in a conversation with another human being.

        This is the same point that Plato's Socrates was talking about in that writing (texting) weakens the mind and that those who use writing will become forgetful.  Forgetful to the point of people using text messaging as a means of thinking they have reached out and commuincated to another person.  Instead, when a text message is sent, it is one phone transmitting data to another phone.  It is up to the other person to respond back to the other phones text message so in reality people are just communicating to devices instead of live people.

        Linda Stone makes some great points about how we are moving into a different era.  She argues that we are now moving from the information overload era to the quality of life era, and using technology to create a better quality of life.  She also sees that people are seeking filters and time away from technology to allow people to become more productive thinkers and users of technology.
The wisdom age is were she says we are heading, using technology to seek wisdom and propel ourselves into a search for knowledge.  We are being selective with processing information by using filters and other activities to give us a break so we can become greater information or data workers. (yoga, exercise, blocks of time breaks, etc.).

        I agree with Linda which is we need to take a break from our technology to have a good quality of life and be fully productive in society.  I especially see this in cell phones since they are with us all of the time and are becoming more like a computer then a phone.   I have seen people at malls walking around as they are looking at their phones and not paying attention to their surroundings.  Retail stores are now making us more dependant on our phones by partnering with Facebook, so when we are at a mall shopping for a particualr product, the store will send a special discount ad to our Facebook page when we are physically near the store.  Another example of this is Laduni's restraunt at NorthPark Mall were they will text you on your cell phone when your table is ready.  Technology, especially mobile technology has become so engrained in our daily lives that it is hard to get away from it or put it down.  I think people need to follow Linda's advice in order to have a great quality of life!