Augmented reality changes how people interact and communicate, study finds

An actor portrays a participant in a new study of the impact of augmented reality on social interactions. The area inside the dotted line is the field of view of the augmented reality goggles, which shows digital content such as avatars.

Enlarge / An actor portrays
a participant in a new study of the impact of augmented reality on
social interactions. The area inside the dotted line is the field
of view of the augmented reality goggles, which shows digital
content such as avatars. (credit: Mark Miller/Stanford Human
Interaction Lab)

Neal Stephenson’s influential 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash offered
a fairly dystopian vision of a future virtual-reality based
Internet known as the “Metaverse” and is widely credited with
bringing the term “avatar” into mainstream culture. Stephenson
called people who remained publicly plugged in around the clock via
wearable computer gear “gargoyles,” and he derided the adverse
impact of that level of immersion on social behavior. “Gargoyles
are no fun to talk to,” he wrote. “They never finish a sentence.
They are adrift in a laser-drawn world.”

We are at the dawn of the 21st century in which the novel is
set, and we don’t yet have a fully immersive VR Internet. But
smartphones are ubiquitous, and augmented reality (AR) is already
here, most notably in popular games like Pokémon Go and
the Microsoft
Hololens
 AR interactive crime
drama Fragments.
It seems Stephenson wasn’t far off the mark. According to
researchers at Stanford University, layering computer-generated
content, like someone’s avatar, onto a real-world environment will
influence people’s behavior as if that person were really present.
The researchers described
the results
of three recent experiments on the impact of AR on
social interactions in
a new paper
 in PLOS ONE.

Quite a lot of research has studied the psychological impacts of
both rudimentary virtual worlds like Second Life and fully
immersive VR experiences—a good chunk of
it
conducted in co-author Jeremy
Bailenson’s
 Virtual Human
Interaction Lab
at Stanford. One of the first
simulations Bailenson created involved a virtual, gaping pit in
the middle of a simulated “room” with a board laid across it.
Test subjects, outfitted in full VR gear, were instructed to walk
on the board across the pit. Even though they knew consciously that
the pit wasn’t real (because they had seen the real-world
version) they still reacted as if the pit were really there. Some
teetered uncertainly, some fell down, some ran away, some screamed
in fear—a testament to the power of digital illusions.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Augmented reality changes how people interact and communicate, study finds