Mixed Realities: Actual vs. Virtual vs. Augmented

To me, bringing the ordinary sense of reality to a mediated one, be it virtual or augmented reality, the technical agent’s job is to mobilise the dimensionality of information to certain but variable degrees. My most intimate experiences with any kind of mixed realities are perhaps 3D movie-watching, encountering photos on Facebook with which I could only remember the moment of camera-snapping but not the actual event (and I personally think this is really sad of me) and playing online games and Wii.

This is what Augmented Magic looks like!

However, Marco Tempest’s magic performed via augmented reality blew me away with the heightened functional potentiality of new digital technologies.

As he calls it a “technological magic”, the technical agent he deploys is changing the nature of interaction and bring new dimension to “possible actions”. The sequence and content of his show is revitalising the affects of the media that socialise with him and with the audience in unprecedented ways. How audiences perceive and conceive a performance as such is very different to what used to be done in the past. The hyper-interactivity seems to unfold spontaneously on stage, as Tempest assures it, right in front of every living person in the room. Being conscious of the fact that a near-cinematographic experience emerges right within a captivated spatial-temporal frame of setting, to me, is an affective experience. A lot of methodologies of thought processing are undergoing reform and redefinition because this is socially, and even ontologically, new. To say this in a hyperbolic tone, the culture of magic/performance is moving toward an augmented stage.

Interplay between Mixed Realities and Experiences

I believe that the higher the modernity we reside in, the more skeptical we become. Especially when technology is constantly evolving, we could easily lose ourselves in virtual spaces that are evoked by conscious experiences. The closer these two elements correlate, or the better our sensory organs are stimulated and experiences are remembered, the truer the reality is constructed. It is like how the traitor Cypher in the first Matrix movie says: “I don’t want to remember nothing, NOTHING. You understand? …I’m eating a steak right now and the matrix is telling me that it is juicy and delicious.” (Youtube link to this scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7BuQFUhsRM)

While objects in virtual/augmented realities are like simulacra and when the line between what is real and what is not blurs, it is difficult to judge. Provided we trust our senses, which correspond our memories and archives of knowledge, how do we know which is more reliable to trust? Digitalised memory storage or mind-and-body (that is, blood and flesh)? How our consciousness and our body are contact points with this world, as well as what we rely on to perceive the surroundings, to be believable is a common thread in many debates including the embodied mind and the extended mind etc.

Virtual Reality can give hope to those in need of help

One of the latest scientific development, Brain-Machine-Brain Interface (BMBI), is not only an intriguing technology but also a hopeful one.

Intriguing: the fact that BMBI “establishes a direct, bidirectional link between a brain and a virtual body” (Professor and senior author of the neurobiology study, Miguel Nicolelis, said in Anon 2011) changes the nature of interaction entirely. It literally separates the mind from the physical body, granting the brain exceptional independence.

Hopeful: this technology raises the chance of paralysed patients regaining their sense of touch and mobility. It unlocks vegetables, who are mentally active but physically dead, though not completely, from their nightmare of a lifetime. Yet, the concept is hopeful and motivates future research.


The potentiality of these mixed realities is unpredictable. At this stage of developments, virtual and augmented realities have already brought life-changing experiences to us, ordinary people. Whether actual reality is slowly disappearing is a question that I want to ask. Can new visual/sensory experiences eventually engulf our actual being as such process of becoming might lose control? Are mixed realities pleasures with teeth?

We’ll see.


Anon. (2011) ‘Monkeys ‘Move and Feel’ Virtual Objects Using Only Their Brains’, ScienceDaily, October 5, <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111005131648.htm>

Tempest, M. (2011) ‘A Magic Tale (with Augmented Reality)’, TED Conferences, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4pHP-pgwlI>


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