Gonzo Augmented Reality

Thomas Carpenter of Games Alfresco was pretty impressed by the AR app that superimposes an oil slick on any BP logo within the frame of its image capture, and started riffing on the idea of gonzo AR – a sort of “the world as seen by [x]” idea, taking the idea of reality being defined by personal perceptions right down to the granular level of individuals.

An unofficial game of object-association could make great interactive art, political rhetoric, or dystopic reinforcing world-view; depending on its implementation.  Wouldn’t you like to point your smartphone at everyday objects and find out how your favorite artists or celebrities view the world? Seeing how YoYo Ma, or the Dalai Lama or Bruce Campbell (the guy from the Evil Dead series) view the world could be liberating. Or since our own Bruce Sterling is the Prophet of AR, one of the AR browsers could do a “Bruce Layer” and show us what kind of world he sees when he’s looking around.

Maybe if Glenn Beck was your thing, you’d have a Nazi symbol pop-up when you pointed it at an Obama sticker.  Or if you were a former Bush-hater, you could see a Stalin-esque version of the W with your smartphone.   Propaganda could be all encompassing, blotting out all but the sanctioned viewpoints.

I think we can safely assume that AR (like any other media) will get pretty ugly when mainstream politics gets a hold of it… although, going on past form, that’ll probably happen a few years after everyone else has moved on to something more novel. Back to Mr Carpenter:

And maybe that’s what a gonzo-reality could bring to AR.  Instead of a mirror reflecting all of our beliefs into an ever-increasing sine wave, we might be privy to alternate views to our own.  Maybe even trying out how someone else sees the world.


Or maybe we couldn’t handle their viewpoint.  The overstimulating rush would make our realities spin around us until we puked it back out, losing all those alternate nutrients our world views could have used to grow.

And there you have it; new technology, same old spectre of confirmation bias. Still, if AR ends up as ubiquitous and packed with stuff as the existing internet, cognitive bias will at least be a whole lot of fun.

5 thoughts on “Gonzo Augmented Reality”

  1. Well I liked the black box over BP too, however now that I have it on my machine it is blocking out photos on my student blogs as well, which have nothing to do with BP. I’d like to know how to uninstal it. ;>}

  2. Oh yes, politicians will muck it up. But not before it’s full of commercials and spam anyway. (How about every time you aim your smartphone at a pretty girl, you see ads for penis pills and lonely singles in your area?)

  3. I want the Laughing Man’s logo-and-J.D.Salinger-quote on everything; for a while, anyway.

  4. Hmm, street art/graffiti application would be way cooler.

    Now that I think about it, I’m surprised we aren’t seeing people plastering custom QRCodes over existing ads, for the lulz.

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