I was at a VR and AR conference in a roundtable discussion about outside AR a little while ago. During the explanation of what occlusion is, they mentioned, with great enthusiasm, that with AR you could look at your phone and you could see King Kong on the Eiffel Tower.
So imagine that you were in front of the Eiffel Tower for a second. You’ve come to Paris, the City of Lights, the City of Dreams, Luxury and Wonder, and you’re right in front of a tower made of steel in 1889 that now enjoys the title of the most-visited paid monument in the world, of which 6.91 million people paid to go all the way to the top of. It is a wonder that features on every picture of Paris. You don’t need to escape this landscape or this reality. Its amazing. If you haven’t been there, take my word for it.
So there you are, in front of the Eiffel Tower, you might take out your phone. The selfie might happen. You might get your significant other to do the deed. You display yourself in front of this most amazing feat of human engineering wrought over a century ago to form the most memorable cultural icon in human memory. You are not at home. You are not in the office. You are not in a meeting. You are not buying apples.
You don’t need to put augmented reality King Kong on the Eiffel Tower right now. It’s amazing by itself.
Put King Kong on somewhere boring or shit. I’ll list a couple of examples. I’m sure you can think of more. Put it in a car park. Put it in front of Tesco. Put King Kong on top of the parents you have to talk to while you wait at the school gate waiting to pick up your kids. Put King Kong on top of your bosses head, capture it and then everyone in the office laughs heartily. Make something shit a bit less shit, that’s one thing AR is good for if you ask me.
I spent a week with my family in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been and probably one of the most beautiful places there ever is. It’s in a little inlet crevice of a place called Akyaka in southwest Turkey. It is an inlet with mountains and unblemished hills of green stretching far in any direction you could crane your head towards if you felt the need to. Most of the time you wouldn’t because you would be too busy looking at the sea. One thing you wouldn’t be doing is looking at your fucking phone or putting King Kong there.
Upon returning to the interminable diarrhoea of brown brick interspersed with soul crushing grey skies that is London, I felt the innate need to look at my phone. I felt a sudden and unstoppable impulse to just not look at the city around me. I had to look at a shiny, clean and bright thing that offered quick and mindless reward. I needed to escape, I needed to modify my landscape, the view that I couldn’t escape everywhere around me.
When our lives are constructed of being crammed more and more into cruelly efficient urban shit-spheres, we are surrounded by ugly same as such things. We are constantly confronted with the same brick and the same concrete. The same roads and the same homeless people filling them reminding us of how cruel our lives in these systems really are. We grasp at ways to change this. To make its better somehow in any way we can. Yet, when you are surrounded by beauty you don’t need to escape your landscape.