Mixing Realities

On: September 24, 2007
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About Pieter-Paul Walraven
Besides enjoying my MA New Media and doing research on Web 2.0 developments in China at the UvA I am working 2 days a week as a project assistant at KREM (www.KREM.nl). KREM is a web 2.0 oriented company which specializes in so called corporate social networks. Movies: Koyaanisqatsi, O Brother where art thou?, Amores Perros. When not studying: Golf!, running, traveling, China, Web 2.0. Books: Life of Pi, War and Peace, The World is Flat. Furthermore I am currently doing research on Web 2.0 in China and Chinese Web companies expanding overseas. For this MA thesis research I will travel to China on the 14th of April to interview the most prominent Chinese Web companies that have the ambition to expand internationally.


Today my RSS feed list provided me with an interesting link that directed me to the coverage of the latest Diesel fasion show. It is not that I am particularly interested in Diesel clothing, on the contrary, but I am interested in the new holographic techniques they have used during their fashion show in combination with displaying the new collection.

The technical part of the stunning 3D show was made by Clas Dyrholm and Peter Simonsen from Vizoo, a Danish company that develops and produces new media with “edge”. At the Vizoo website a lot of other project are mentioned and described. They call the free-floating holograms ‘advanced video design’ and several movies are available to show the truly stunning effects the technology can achieve.

After browsing the Vizoo website for a while I could not help myself to start thinking that what Lev Manovich had once called the ‘Augmented Reality’ suddenly seems an outdated theory and statement. A short presentation on Manovich his article on augmented space on the Masterofmedia blog by Anne Helmond can be found here.

In The Poetics of Augmented Space: Learning from Prada (2002), Manovich states that the computer era of Virtual Reality and traveling through virtual space is in practise, in 2002, replaced by a new image: it has been replaced by ‘the technologies which deliver data to, or extract data from, physical space.’ Manovich calls this image Augmented Reality (AR). In his article AR is described in the following way: ‘AR system helps the user to do the work in a physical space by augmenting this space with additional information. This is achieved by overlaying information over the user’s visual field.’

Floating 3D images @ Diesel fashion show

When you think about the possibilities of free-floating hologram techniques, when they become more cheap/accesible for companies and all of us, what will happen to the current ‘AR world’? I think the definition of the AR paradigm that Lev came up with will become either too narrow because free-floating holograms are doing more than just overlay reality or AR is not the right term for a society in which free-floating 3D holograms are a normality.

Therefore I will come up with a better term for an image in which 3D free-floating holographic images are integrated in normal life: Mixed Reality (MR). Mixed in the way that it combines the two paradigms of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. The term MR is basically refering to the fact that Virtual Reality is not just an image of people in the early 90-ies that did not come true as Manovich stated it; it will become partly reality. I say partly because the definition of Virtual Reality as we know it, is not completely applicable in this case. Since VR rules out the use of physical space; ‘it becomes unnecessary’, VR is also not the right term for a world in which 3D hologram techniques are integrated in everybodies life.

The whole process of analysing and ‘branding’ or naming new techniques or phenomomoms after they are invented is worth doing research on by itself. I will leave this to others and just hope people will pick up the Mixed Reality terminology. Since I am not particularly interested in this type of research I will start by editing the existing Wiki entry on this subject in the following week and hope Wiki volunteers will do the rest. Maybe Manovich will be kind enough to share his point of view? This does not necessarily mean that I think this is an uninteresting discussion, on the contrary. As a New Media MA student I simply do not have enough time for this!

I would like to end this post by stressing to the people that have only watched the Diesel fashion show movie briefly, to watch the end of the movie in which a clever execution of the blending-in of the Virtual Reality in the Real Reality is shown!

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