I used to be obsessed with Augmented Reality (AR) games, which combine virtual objects with real-life settings through a phone camera. I can still vividly recall stumbling around supermarkets on a weekend, looking for virtual objects that would hopefully appear on my screen. Through phone cameras, AR seems to slide the virtual world into reality.
In “‘Liberty Bell’ Tolls for Sites Where History Is Alive and Kicking” David Colman describes artist Nancy Cahill’s use of AR to create animation in the shape of Liberty Bell at several historical sites. While appreciating the new technology, it also raises an alarming question: when immersing ourselves in the virtual world, are we at the same time becoming increasingly blind to things around us? In museums, we see people taking pictures of famous art and post them on social media without taking one glimpse at the works with their own eyes. And in this case of AR Liberty Bell, is it truly necessary to look at a colorful hat floating above the monument on our screen, when we can simply appreciate the view of a historical site with our naked eyes?
Developers of Pokemon Go, a popular AR game, said they intentionally connected some virtual locations with historical sites so players get a bit of culture while engaging in the game. However, can we actually appreciate the cultural sites around when catching Pokemon’s on our phone screen?
Technology can replace us in many areas, but we need to make sure it is not replacing our eyes to appreciate beauty.