Context is King with Augmented Reality

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I’ve been seeing a lot of posts heralding television graphics (like the one in the image above), as incredible examples of Augmented Reality, and Mixed Reality—one expert went so far as to describe it as Virtual Reality. So, what is happening here? Why are we suddenly describing broadcast TV infographics in this way? Here’s an example:

I agree that this work is amazing, and I really like the graphics bursting out of the 2D panels and invading the studio —this is great storytelling.

But, this is something the studios have been doing for years; in fact, all big network television studios are green-screen facilities nowadays, with most of the news desk being CG. The Weather report is arguably the first example of Mixed Reality if we use this nomenclature. Here’s another Weather Channel example:

In these examples, the creative ideas are bold, and you can see that they are attempting to depict the Augmented Reality experience, with the user as a third-party observer. Here is a video where the host explains a little bit more about the technicalities of what they are doing to create virtual studios using camera tracking. There’s obviously a lot of innovation happening here, especially when they start incorporating hand-held cameras and occluding the virtual content. Take a look:

But, is it, and should it be described as Augmented/Mixed Reality? I see this as a worrying trend that can only undermine the true power of AR technology. For me this has less to do with the content, and is all about the context by which we consume it: through the lens of the viewers reality, whether it be a camera, eyewear or headset.

Who’s reality is being augmented in a broadcast like this? Is it the news anchor? Their reality is a studio with cameras, and green-screen. Is it our reality? We are looking at a TV screen, or device.

I know some will argue that the context of these broadcast graphics is a version of reality that is being augmented (the host, the camera, studio etc), but I don’t think we should be including this sideways view in our categorisation.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Let’s open the debate up. What exactly is Augmented, Mixed, Virtual Reality?


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