In this article, I tried to explain what AR is and critically discuss its social, economic, and political impacts, as well as how it affects my life. Overall, I think AR could create strong entertainment by AR Games and also strong economic values for VR game designer. It is also a strong tool for education, since it could allow for the integration of some added feature into the reality to explore some issues. However, the private information and happiness of users might be negatively affected. Relevant regulatory forces should be developed to deal with those issues. however, my experience shows that sometimes AR might also promote social interaction by the shared loves for the games or apps. However, the privacy is really a critical issue for users of AR app.
what is AR
Augmented reality is the product of taking advantage of technologies to superimpose visual, audio, and text information on the world people can see (Emspak, 2018). Such technology creates an immersive experience for users by significantly improve the interactivity with information by adding them to the world where people live, as the movie of Ironman displays (Figure 1, movie excerpt link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPcb05I0anY).
Figure 1: Screenshot Augmented Reality in Iron Man (Marvel FilmGuide, 2016)
Genesis of Augmented Reality and Histories
Core elements of AR
AR usually requires four major elements to realize: (1) a camera to grasp the target information; (2) a marker to identify the target information; (3) a processor (usually mobile phone with the relevant app) to store and process the information; and (4) digital contents presented on the screen by tracking the marker. Figure 2 presents an app of AR in the mobile phone to track the random access memory (RAM).
Figure 2: Use of AR to Track the Digital Information (Majid et al., 2013)
History of AR
AR has a history that could be traced back to 1968, when a first AR and also the VR system was developed with a see-through head to do some simple wireframe drawing (Figure 3a). After a series of technological development in hardware, including the development a first conceptual laptop computer in 1972 (Figure 3b), and a first mobile phone in 1972 (Figure 3c), the first AR class to present simple outlays on the real world was developed (Figure 3d) in 1992. In the same year, the first smart phone was developed (Figure 3e) that started an important mile stones.
Figure 3: Early Development of AR (Arth et al., 2015)
The breakthrough in AR starts in 1999, when NASA AR in X-38 spacecraft to assist the navigation system and in 2000, an extension to the desktop game QUAKE with GPS aided AR was developed (Figure 4). In 2003, NFL applied AR to aerial views of the target, and in 2009, AR could be applied in printed media and ARToolKit, which was developed in 2000 to capture the real-world action to integrate with virtual object, was open for Internet users (Isberto, 2018). Since 2014, many tech giants, including Google, Microsoft and Apple started to focus on developing wearable products or the app to improve their user experiences (Figure 5).
Figure 4: ARQuake (Arth et al., 2015)
Figure 5: Microsoft AR (Todd, 2018)
Critical Analysis of AR’s Impacts
AR games are the major profit-seeker by using the AR technologies, which allow the creation of some popular images to interact in the real world. Among various cases, Pokémon Go is a big success in 2016, which achieved 100 million users and achieve over $2 million revenues through the simple game (Figure 6, Emspak, 2018). Another successful game is ‘Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery’, which creates huge sensation by allowing the users to immerse into the Hogwarts world that is embedded in their environment (Emspak, 2018). This game created the highest downloads in the US, with a total revenue of $154 million since April 2018 (Figure 7, Isberto, 2018). Those cases show that once the game could effectively combine the popular figures in the AR, significant downloads and revenues will be created.
Figure 6: Game of Pokémon Go (Isberto, 2018)
Figure 7: Ranks of Spending on Games Since April 2018 (Sensor Tower, 2019)
In addition to making profits, some students also gain the advantages in using AR to improve their learning. Some history and tourism students can improve their learning by embedded the AR into specific historical views by the real space-time integration (Figure 8). Problem solving abilities could be improved for computer students by using the AR to help them predict the model and explore in the cores (Figure 9).
Figure 8: AR for History Student (Kysela & Štorková, 2015)
Figure 9: AR for Computer Problem-Solving Design (Majid et al., 2013)
Private Information and Happiness
However, the negative social impact of AR is the personal data collected by the AR games or platforms. According to Hall and Takahashi, (2017), the time spent in the screen-based device is rising with the development of AR (Figure 10), and users’ personal data are actually collected by the firms that will be sold to others. Actually, happiness of people is negatively affected, as people spending more time in the social media and AR platforms experience higher level of social isolation (Hall & Takahashi, 2017).
Figure 10: Leisure Time Spent on Screen (Hall & Takahashi, 2017)
However, the issue is that the regulation on the AR-based data is still not quite enforced and effectively applied. Companies still could gain profits by engaging consumers in the games and collecting their private data. The EU adopted the General Data Projection Regulation in 2018 to respond to the increasing use of data (Hall & Takahashi, 2017). However, there are still no specific regulation that tackle the field of AR.
Impacts of the Innovation on My Experience
I think AR indeed brings me some interesting experiences and enrich my lives. I like the facial tracking cameras, which could help me to identify different types and styles of myself and also enable me to share some interesting moment with my friends. I think AR is not just a tool that will create social isolation. Instead, it could also promote the connection between virtual and real world, where I could explore more of the world and also interact with my friends to enjoy the social process. Besides, when Pokémon Go was quite popular at a time around 2016, I think this game has developed some interesting social connections among people. The social media are full of the screenshots and expressions of feelings of playing this game. Such shared crazy about this game actually build a sort of connection. I could easily talk with someone that I previously seldom communicate with the discussion on the pets they get. It became an ice-breaking tool for me to interact with others. However, I do not have the experience in using AR in studies, which might be due to the nature of my major.
However, I do concern about the privacy of my data. Although more relevant recommendations will help me easy to find out what I want to buy, it meanwhile raised my deep concerns about to what extend the platforms understand me. For instance, I took some interesting pictures with the VR cameras in the Powerhouse museum, and then the video ads in YouTube suddenly all become the promotional activities of the Powerhouse museum. It creates a feeling that I am monitored by my phone and such feeling makes me uncomfortable. Safety and privacy are perceived as infringed, but I know that it is unavoidable since it is the core of their business model to generate user data for profits (Godet-Bar et al., 2010). Therefore, I do think that the regulatory framework for the use of AR, as well as how they deal with the users’ data should be progressed to protect the privacy.
In sum, AR is a well-developed technology and is still developing to improve the user experiences and help to improve the education difficulties by combining the real and virtual world. Users, game designers, educators, and students could all gain some benefits by using the AR apps. However, users’ privacy might be infringed as the VR apps or platforms will get the information of the users through the cameras, and localisation technologies. Meanwhile, the increasing use of AR might result in both positive and negative impacts on the ordinary Internet users. On the one hand, users could improve their experiences by using those AR apps and they could explore the world that they previously could not through augmenting the reality with some virtual tools. Besides, sometimes people can share the AR effects or AR games with others to build some social relationship. Simple AR tools might become a popular game that help people to use the shared interests to communicate with each other. However, internet users might suffer from the loss of empathy and happiness, if they immerse in the AR games with prolonged time. they might experience hardships to interact with the real world and is likely to experience social isolation. Therefore, AR is a strong technological innovation with both the positive and negative impacts on its users.
Arth, C., Grasset, R., Gruber, L., Langlotz, T., Mulloni, A., & Wagner, D. (2015). The history of mobile augmented reality. arXiv preprint arXiv:1505.01319.
Emspak (2018). What is Augmented Reality?. Live Science. Retrieved from: https://www.livescience.com/34843-augmented-reality.html
Hall, S. & Takahashi, R. (2017). Augmented and virtual reality: the promise and peril of immersive technologies. World Economic Forum.Retrieved from: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/09/augmented-and-virtual-reality-will-change-how-we-create-and-consume-and-bring-new-risks/
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Kysela, J., & Štorková, P. (2015). Using augmented reality as a medium for teaching history and tourism. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 174, 926-931.
Majid, N. A. A., Mohammed, H., & Sulaiman, R. (2015). Students’ perception of mobile augmented reality applications in learning computer organization. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 176, 111-116.
Marvel FilmGuides (2016).Iron Man 2 (2010) Deleted Scene – Extended New Element Scene. YouTube. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPcb05I0anY
Sensor Tower (2019).Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery Magics up $150 Million in Lifetime Revenue. Retrieved from: https://sensortower.com/blog/harry-potter-hogwarts-mystery-revenue-150-million
Todd, F. (2018). AR and VR market: What big firms like Google and Microsoft are doing with the futuristic tech. NS Business.Retrieved from: https://www.ns-businesshub.com/science/ar-and-vr-market-google-microsoft/