ISMAR – A Visionary Start

To start my reports I want to follow the concept of ISMAR, giving visionary outlooks each morning with the keynotes. Three great speakers had the chance to show their ideas, inspire us and remind us of things we might forget in everyday implementational life!


Oliver Grau started on Thursday approaching the question, if we ever will become used to immersion. Consequently, he shed much light on the history of art and of course especially on the history of illusion and immersion. He claims that we cannot have image competence in the 21st century if we don’t look back and understand how immersion was tried to be generated by humans’ work for centuries. He goes way back to classic antiquity and shows different way of immersion, e.g. the phantasmagoria and 360° panoramic exhibitions to physically stand inside another space. We must differentiate between physical immersion (e.g. a CAVE) and psychologial immersion (e.g. reading a book). Regarding the physical space we have the best examples in all world exhibitions (with a big audience and budget) with “big immersion” and “small immersions” with HMD-like personal setups. Regarding this hardware he states, that specific devices are unimportant, but we’d rather need to focus on novel illusions and the way to improve the immersion. Once the medium has become fully invisible, we can enjoy the VR/MR and that art has always played a big role in pushing these limits, driven by the fascination of extending the possibilities of immersion. Interestingly enough art tends to create a polarizing vision of the future or (digital) parallel worlds: either an utopian scenario or dystopian dark worlds to catch us emotionally.

He closes with a reminder that we need to think about ways to preserve today’s digital artworks in an adequate way. Art documentation seems to fade: if we pulled the plug, the 31st century people wouldn’t be able to understand anything about our time’s art. He underlines the need for more sustainability, better documentational structures, funding and more commitment from the pros for future generations to be able to look back at our digital steps.


Mark Bolas then continued with a great talk and a detailed look on where we are today and what we need to focus on more, if we want to mix and create our own realities better. To gain this as researchers and artists we must first fullfill the basic prerequisite: to have passion for our field and stick with our visions! Looking back at the Gartner hype cycle, we can see, that we are nevertheless still in the early adpoter phase, while games or mobile phone acceptance already matured. This highers the expectations by the public: they imagine how it could be and thus helping to improve the realization of good MR/AR. ISMAR just started to get out of this gap in understanding between researchers and customers. A good time!

The question of where we should put AR is been followed by examples on how to make use of our senses in MR. The immersion can only happen if we consider all these hidden possibilities – AR has to be much more than the direct manipulation of our vision. We need to think and look beyond planes of light and pure pixel piles. E.g. stereo speaker sound might not be sufficient to give a good immersion. We need better wave field simulations to convince the human body, that is way to sensitive to his input. E.g. light field technology may help to experience unbroken MR experiences (like having real eye contact with a remote partner, that is projected). Additionally, mixed Reality is not only about putting in cool stuff, but by the same amount we need to consider what is around us. We need to scan the real world to make the virtual work. A tactile contact between real and virtual is needed to make it work. If we have a physical bond to the virtual part, also giving us a direct way of manipulation, it starts to work. Talking about current devices like smartphones (if it’s not on a phone, it’s not AR these days… ;-)) this means to realize a connection – for example – through AR-enabled cards, I can hold in my hand – rather than having the card on the floor or just waving around my phone and seeing floating objects. The immersion only happens through a close physical relation. Limitations by displays need to be considered closely: a noticed frame breaks all illusion (cutting off virtual augmentations) and further more: we don’t even need a display to reach the user. We need to get into his/her head! Again, it has to be about creating another reality within the user. Not showing pixels.

Everyone creates his or her own reality all the time. We must support this, rather than wasting time on “token realities”: e.g. using real world posters to augment a movie clip, I’d rather watch at home without AR. In these situations we’d rather want to get rid of reality! Reality is now an optional element of our design!

If we want to integrate it, we have to preserve reality, pull it in by accepting all senses and be aware of the fact, that people are made of meat and that we need physical spaces to interact and meet. A body relation is the best start.


Adrian David Cheok then continued up on this idea of including all senses to make MR happen. With a lot of demos, he made us understand, how this could be achieved.

Though the progress in AR, tracking, mobile devices has been huge during the last 10 years, he pities, that conceptually not much has changed and that still the focus lies on the visual part and even more on tracking issues only. E.g. the magic book metaphor is still the same (and widely used) as it was decades ago. We need to reconceive and rethink our own understanding of AR to move on.

A fitting example was the comparison to a samurai fighter, who also uses all his senses to win a battle. A good samurai could still win, if he was blind:

Going through all senses he showed demos reg. smell, taste, sound (as above), touch with the huggy pajama demo and the chicken touch demo: a remote human-pet interaction system.

He stressed the part of the touch part for human interaction and thus also for mixed reality interaction metaphors. Physical interfaces just give a different feeling to us than digital-only approaches, though they might contain the same information. It just is different from the logical communication. We need to change the physical world to interact with VR/MR worlds!

To redesign the worlds we need to think ahead 10 years from today and look at all the different senses! Young people starting to work in this field of MR should begin integrating this needed multi-sensoric approaches!

After all it’s about human interaction, all sensors and virtual kisses! :-)

Great keynotes, great inspirations! Though, we need still to find the killer app ourselves to become millionaires! Glad I could hear those visionary talks and give a glimpse of it here.

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