calendar tag arrow download print
Skip to content

Frequently asked questions

Fake for real
Nep echt - Het Binnenhof met de Chinese muur

We experience physical rRead more in Chapter 1 of the reporteality with our senses. We see the blue sky, hear the sea and feel the wind in our hair. With augmented reality (AR), virtual elements can be added to that reality. This creates a 'hybrid reality', which has both physical and virtual elements. Through smartphones, AR headsets or smart glasses, AR users can experience and perform actions in this digitally adjusted reality.  These systems make two things possible. First, they create a hybrid environment by creating virtual elements and linking them to specific physical places, objects or people. A face filter on Snapchat, for example, creates a mask of an animal, which is directly linked to a real-time, digital image of a person's face. Secondly, AR systems function as an interface between the user and that hybrid environment. This means that they make the hybrid environment perceptible to the user through screens, audio devices or haptic devices, and allow the user to perform actions within it.

Read more in Chapter 1 of the report

We note that there is hardly any public discussion about our physical-virtual world. The development of AR technology is now mainly in the hands of large technology companies. They design this mirror world out of their own commercial interests. However, much is at stake with AR: our perception of reality. It is therefore time for a broad public debate on the social embedding of AR. It is important that together we reflect on the rules and social manners of the physical-virtual world and design it in a socially responsible way. We present eleven design rules for a liveable physical-virtual world, as a starting point for a broad debate.

For more information on the design rules, see the "design rules" block on the report page or read chapter 5.

Although AR technology is still under development, AR is certainly no longer science fiction. The first professional AR applications were created in the early 1990s by the US Air Force (Rosenberg 1992) and aircraft manufacturer Boeing (Caudell & Mizell 1992). Today, armies around the world are using AR headsets for digital simulations, education and remote collaboration. The US Army has already ordered more than a hundred thousand units of the HoloLens, the AR headset introduced by Microsoft in 2016 (Brustein 2018). Over the past decade, the use of headsets and smart glasses has also taken off in other professional circles. Surgeons are experimenting with visualisations in AR, architectural firms are using AR systems to design and construct three-dimensional buildings, and at distribution centres, people hope to use virtual directions to help employees work more efficiently.

In addition, there are numerous AR applications for consumers. Many will remember Google Glass: smart glasses, the beta version of which was launched in 2014 but taken off the market in 2015 due to privacy concerns. Pokémon GO, a game application for the mobile phone, had more success. The game broke all download records in 2016. Within 19 days, the game was downloaded 50 million times (Nelson 2016). Pokémon GO uses AR and GPS to place virtual creatures, called Pokémon, in public spaces. Players can see and catch the creatures via the camera of a smartphone. In addition, well-known social media applications such as Instagram (5.6 million users in the Netherlands), Snapchat (2.7 million users) or TikTok (400,000 users), have AR options that allow photo and film images to be supplemented in real time by means of virtual layers (Oosterveer 2020). Another example is the popular app IKEA Place, which allows people to place virtual furniture in their homes via tablet or smartphone. Finally, smart ears are also a popular application of AR. This is called augmented hearing because the earphones can suppress or amplify sounds from the environment or add other audio signals, such as music.

For the full source, download the entire report.

Yes, this report on augmented reality is the third in the series on immersive technologies.  A study on Virtual Reality was already published at the end of 2019: 'Verantwoord virtueel - Bescherm consumenten in virtual reality'. In October 2020 the report 'Hoor wie het zegt - handvatten voor het verantwoorde gebruik van spraaktechnologie' was published.

With the breakthrough of immersive technologies, digital society is entering a new phase. The physical and digital worlds are becoming more intertwined than ever. This raises urgent social and political questions. The Rathenau Instituut has therefore published a manifest with ten design requirements for the digital society of tomorrow.

During Dutch Design Week we organised an online talk show: Enriching Reality: Designing human-centered AR, VR and Voice applications. During this talk show, coordinator Rinie van Est and researcher Jurriën Hamer received inspiring guests to discuss how AR, VR and Voice touch people's lives - and under what conditions they can enrich society. Watch the talkshow on the website of the Dutch Design Week.

On 26 November 2020 (15.30-17.00 hrs), our annual Rathenau Live event took place. This year, it was an online event entirely dedicated to Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Speech Technology. Together we discussed and experienced what these techniques do to our perception of ourselves, others and the world around us.