Publication Date

April 2018


Anthony Hatch, H.C. Robinson


Science in Society


English (United States)


This project is a close examination of the implications of augmented reality (AR), a technology simultaneously on the verge of mass adoption and notorious for its so-called disruptive potential. AR overlays digital contextual information onto its user?s field of vision through the lens of a smartphone camera or wearable headset, offering a proliferation of potentially extended, narrated, gamified, or otherwise altered experiences of space. As a genre of technology largely imagined in science fiction and only recently having become technologically viable, AR has been subject to highly utopian and dystopian rhetoric. In reading these hybrid environments, this paper begins by suggesting that we are deeply in need of theories to foster considerations of AR that move beyond such overwhelmingly polarized descriptions and predictions. AR transcends the traditional boundaries between digital interface and physical space, dynamically mediating users? perceptual reading of environments and the objects that fill them in a mode which resembles, combines, and extends theories of space found across architecture, locative media, and environmental psychology. This paper proposes a theoretical framework to study the unique facets of this technology called the embodied interface, which considers the relationships between graphical interfaces, location-based technology, human environmental perception, and networks of human and algorithmic actors in the production of an experience of space. Embodied interface theory is employed to frame a case study describing how an AR app, the wildly popular game Pok?mon GO, is used to design contexts for user action. This exposes the coalescence of conditions that compose the game ? its design shaped by conventions of existing AR games, mapping tools, and a conglomeration of corporate partnerships. Players are drawn through space not only by the systems built into the Pok?mon universe but also by a web of third-party actants using a distinct system of place-making conventions. Furthermore, this case describes how Pok?mon GO illustrates the potential for networked augmented reality platforms to create real-world and virtual contexts that can be used for ends entirely divergent from their intended purpose.

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