Augmented Awareness & Reality Games, ARE2012

ARE2012 is being live streamed this year, and the wrap up fire side chat between Bruce Sterling and Daniel Suarez and a surprise stupid fun grand finale is still to come. We have a live stream this year so you can see for yourself! Also you can catch up on any sessions you have missed, including the video of my talk, Augmented Awareness and Reality Games. My slides are here and my speaker notes are below, enjoy!

1. Hi my name is Tish Shute. Currently I am working with Will Wright and Stupid Fun Club on a new genre of personally aware mobile games that move away fromt he idea that games are a way to escape reality. If you want to know more about what I mean by Reality Architect please feel free to look up my TEDXSilicon Alley talk “On Becoming a Reality Architect..” .

2. As Will puts it, “games are getting more and more personal to the point that our actual lives are becoming the most interesting gaming platform.” Personally Aware Games, Life Based Gaming or Integrated Games are expressions that are just beginning to emerge to describe this idea that our lives are the most interesting gaming platform.

3. Will Wright’s talk at Where 2012 is a must see. He pointed too a turning point for mobile gaming.- a shift for games from being about simulating reality to being about parsing reality.

4. The ghosts of AR past. Bruce Sterling at ARE2010 mentioned that AR eyewear was haunted by the spectre of ARs Gothic Stepsister – virtual reality, and Jesse Schell probed on the other hand AR’s aspirations as the ubiquitous all seeing data eye– the man with the x-ray eyes.. As Jesse put it, “You guys are going to put it together…and then everybody is going to be like, oh my god we are freaking naked, all this information about me is out there…I had security through obscurity, but not anymore…”

5. Yes, it seems we have put it all together. Although the ubiquitous all seeing data eye – our x ray eyes have turned out to be carried around in our pockets or integrated into our clothes and eyewear is not yet ubiquitous, at least yet. But, for the moment, we are looking at the most intimate aspects of ours lives only as an opportunity for optimization and efficiency, (but there are some interesting apps/products emerging – try out the Heart Rate app – if you hold your finger up against the camera an you will get a pretty accurate reading). But as the explorations of makers, hackers and self trackers move out into consumer culture the quantified self is ripe for new forms of expression term “gamification” has been worn out already . We sense its shallow inadequacy. So what’s next?

6. There is barely a trace of AR’s Gothic stepsister VR in the Google glasses pitch which is super simple and seems to be aimed at optimizing Pinterest like social shopping experiences, by taking photos and videos from your direct eye-line and disseminating them through Google+ No mentions of mapping, tracking and registration or how they are working the hands free part yet – all I’ve seen for input is nods so far. Is eye movement tracking up next – or what? Thrun was pretty down on the AR ghosts – the man with the x ray eyes stuff (I’m already feeling nostalgic for classic AR!). But seeing with shared eyes is what makes AR technology super interesting as Jesse Schell pointed out at ARE2010, “The internet allowed us to think with shared memory…Augmented Reality will allow us to see with shared eyes,” Jesse Schell ARE2012. Applying our design chops to this possibility space seems like a pretty good project to me. Bruce has always said that AR should be more about creating experiences than the technology.

7. And we do need new forms of expression in our digital culture where technologies of seeing are primarily technologies of watching used for power and control.

8. If you haven’t already drunk at the New Aesthetic fountain you have some googling to do after this session – start with James Bridle’s Tumblr and Bruce Sterling’s essay perhaps. James Bridle might have already closed the New Aesthetic tumblr but this collection of images is a provocation to explore the possibilities of feedback loops between people and machines – a reflexive augmented awareness where we play with modes of digital seeing. I think AR and digital seeing is in need of a New Aesthetic more than most technologies because augmentation implies that we have an idea of what is aesthetically valid at a given time and place, and that we have a position re the difference between augmented and degraded reality, and machinomorphic and anthropomorphic modes of perception. Howie Woo’s “in yo face facial recognition” project (pic in my opening slide too), uses crochet + cunning to transform facial recognition into a reality game.

9. Reality Games can give us new opportunities to explore the free play in the systems of our lives. AyseBirsel, a friend and brilliant designer from New York City has being showing people, in a series of innovative workshops, how to bring powerful design tools to their lives, to design not necessarily a better life but at least an original life, beginning with a method of deconstruction,reconstruction, and visualization. The goal of an original life rather than an optimized more efficient life challenges AR and reality game designers to explore the possibility space of our lives.

10. We are already parsing our lives through powerful digital filters. Four Square has shown us the power of the fundamental change to maps that has at it’s center the notion that “you are here”. See Adam Greenfield’s Where 2012 talk for a deeper understanding of the significance of this change to mapping. While location is a powerful filter to parse what Will call’s the GPS “global possibility space” of our lives, it is not the only one.

11. Time is another a powerful filter for our lives and games. Jonathan Blow’s Braid explores how time can be manipulated in different game worlds.

12. Cosplay (or costume role playing) is different from earlier incarnations of say renaissance fairs or civil war reenactments in its integration into the present. In Tokyo a commuting hub turns into a cosplay mecca every Sunday and as AT Wilson puts it “turns a non-place to a place.”

13. “[TimeHop] sends users a daily e-mail reminder of what they did a year ago, and it does so by retracing the subscriber’s digital footsteps Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare.”

14. Reality Games have of course predated a machine readable world. This book on Cold Reading by Ian Rowland parses the rules of the game that enables “psychics” and “fortune tellers” to deploy techniques that border on actual mind reading.’s players – “pick up artists” & “psychics” and “con-artists” are master gamers of the intimate social dynamics of life but NLP and semantic tech are bringing digital seeing to the kind of intimate social dynamics that are the domain of cold reading.

15. Status games are a core dynamic of life. The great ethnologist Erving Goffman, devoted his career to analyzing the face-to face relations of everyday life. Goffman, described everyday social life as a strategic game that could be understood through the metaphors of the stage.- front stage and back stage. But, as we parse reality, digital hierarchies and the abstractions of data viz begin to control the information flow and create a new stage for status games that demand a a different kind of awareness of what is back stage and what is front stage in social lives.

16. We are entering a new era of social intelligence where people and algorithms are interacting in interesting new ways. OKCupid has been getting a lot of attention for offering social intelligence that can help us play better in our dating lives. Did you know your profile narratives can reveal whether you like rough or gentle sex?

17. We are also beginning to see an interesting New Aesthetic for Artificial Intelligence -the expressive interaction between algorithms and people. SIRI, for example, is no cold reader, but she does have has a more developed character than Google voice.
Jeff Kramer has an excellent post on Weavrs – personality based social – web robots. I like weavrs a lot because they are out on there at the edge with there exploration of the expressive power of bots. Bots shape our algorithmic world from call centers to Wall street but we have barely began to explore their expressive potential .
Weavrs exist on their own. You can ask them questions, but you can’t tell them for example ‘I like this, post more like this. Weavrs are social web bots that evolve and grow without your direct hand guiding them. But as Jeff Kramer in his interesting post on Reality Augmented notes,

“it’s also obvious that having more full featured persona creation/control options is going to be a big part of the future of social bots too.”

18. The eruption of the digital into the physical is a catch phrase for The New Aesthetic. And RjDj’s Dimensions app and awesome Inception app, I think are exemplary explorations of new aesthetic dimensions for Sonic AR. The dimensions app pulls data from your surroundings — including movement, time of day and microphone input — to give you a very personal experience that adjusts to and transforms your environment and actions.

19. Imrov practitioners are early explorers of Reality Games. The Life Game is one of Keith Johnstone’s projects and his books on Improv have been a great source of inspiration for RPG players and game designers. A CMU student visiting Stupid Fun Club once asked Will what he should do to be a better game designer and Will said study Improv!