Thesis produced for MA Design, Critical Inquiry, Design Academy Eindhoven (2020)

The research was developed under the guidance of Patricia Reed, and Saskia van Stein





"[T]echnology is how a society copes with physical reality" (Ursula K. Le Guin, 2014)

Physical reality and the material world are external and observable via the human senses or augmented human senses; through a technological device.


"Digitalisation will force us to rethink the relationship of space, data, and society" (M. Schaefer, 2020)

"will" or rather already has







Coming to terms with physical reality and the material world

Technology is a part of our everyday physical and digital landscapes: it is a part of our world interface and developing understanding of what material and physical reality is. Rather than a mere instrumental tool, technology may be thought of as a medium through which we learn and understand the world in which we live. With the emergence of our landscapes becoming more bionic, this also has implementations for our vision. Technology has led us to interpret the world differently: reality in artificiality, digitality, rationalisation, and quantification. This introduces a sense of mathematical order into our everyday experience; whether we are aware of it or not. In addition to these generalisations, more specifically in relevance to this project: technology in the form of a device as a mode for contemplating the relationship between technology and society.


Within this research the wearable technology Augmented Reality (AR) devices palpably reveal themselves, symbolically, to be a part of our progress within a social-human-technological hybridisation in seeing and thought, symbolically simulating visions and perspectives that are somewhat underlyingly already there. Through this discussion we may come to determine that we have become augmented in vision, and consequently also in thought. The research adds to a continual discussion about the positioning of technology in society and its impact on human seeing and thinking: how technologies and devices have 'augmented' the human senses blurring the physical, material, natural, artificial, and how in particular these AR devices have come to symbolically reveal themselves to be a marker for social-human-technological hybridised relations.


Note: the term 'Augmented Vision' is used as both a noun and as an adjective, demonstrating it as both a concept and a process.


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The term 'Augmented Vision' (with and without capitals) was used by Anna Poli (Riccini, 2002:179-181) to concisely elaborate on the positioning technology has and may have in the development, extension and strengthening of the visual capacity. This research sought to extend the use of the term, and delve deeper into some of the specificities of AR technology that has matured since, as well as, use Augmented Vision as a concept to reflect on the augmented sense of vision already present within our technological-social landscapes today. Expanding the notion Augmented Vision as a thinking mechanism, a 'lens' used to reflect on the widespread inescapable presence of technology, and technologies' its inescapable association rationalisation has on our understanding, seeing and perceiving of what we know as reality - the physical, digital, and the natural-artificiality of the material world. In synthesis: a vast and somewhat fitting continuously augmented topic, this research was only able to touch upon some of these abstractions and more significantly to introduce the concept of Augmented Vision as a way of perceiving  and thinking through our ever more complex understandings of the technological-natural-hybridised sense we have of the world. The importance of this research is that as we are emerging into the fourth technological revolution, as the continuation of technology continues to gain greater intelligence and becomes more delicately intertwined with our species, it is momentous that foundations for thinking are developed, the thinking that this research embarks on is that of an Augmented Vision.


Note: "Science is more than a body of knowledge, it's a way of thinking" Carl Sagan's last interview 1996, a cinematic extract can be found at



- For this dense document, each section can be read by itself, but the sequence does aid matter in aiding understanding -



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Before addressing the more conceptual understanding of Augmented Vision and the mechanisms of the AR device, it is beneficial to briefly examine and acknowledge the historical origins; a selection of which is based on the representation of eyeglasses, eyewear and the mobile phone as linked items of wearable technology. This section will delve into some of the historical notations and realisations that may be considered to have led to the development of AR devices and as such, Augmented Vision. Due to the length of the research, focusing on selected predecessors of the AR device; most potently those involving expansion of vision and seeing.


x insert diagram 1 x


From the diagram it is of significance to note the positioning of... Diagram analytic...



The development of eyeglasses and objects, designs, related to their development have always been interlinked with the rise of near-work. Near-work, also known as close work is considered as activities that are done at a short viewing/'working' distance, such as; reading, writing, typing, computer, tablet or mobile phone use (Huang, Chang, Wu, 2015) and involves focusing on these tasks or object for the task for a prolonged period of time (Collins Dictionary, 2020). The coinciding development of the printing press by Johannes Gutenburg and the invention of the concave lens a correction for myopia (the scientific term for near-sightedness) around the year 1450 (Riccini, 2002:40, Fleishman, 2017) is one of the most interesting subjects within the background of eyeglasses.



Note: Technological determinism is the belief that technology is the cause of all changes, real or imagined in society. "Resting in the rather widespread notion... that technology is an exogenous factor that impacts "the world we live" from the outside. A factor that reaches us from some distant place, surreptitiously worming its way into our society. Something extraneous to us, but also (and especially) something higher, located above us..." emphasising the autonomy of technology, which makes it seem all the more extraneous and sacrilegious, as if it just appeared on planet earth and into our society from outer-space (Riccini, 2002:33). "Technological determinism is only one ideological space opened up by the preconceptions of machine and organism as coded texts through which we engage in the play of writing and reading the world." (Haraway, 1985;1991:460). "In the densest city or jungle, determinism is everywhere, but abstractions, technologies, and technical abstractions are themselves indeterminate." (Bratton, 2019: chapter: Automation as Ecology, paragraph: Automation Automates Autonomy). Bratton's "Copernican shift presumes design's artificiality, but not its inflated sense of mastery. It doesn't imagine putting technology "back under control" because among the things that these technologies reveal is that it was never under our control in the first place, making both technological determinism and social reductionism obsolete" (Bratton, 2019: chapter: Automation as Ecology, paragraph: The Artificial Indeterminate).


x image planet earth and UFO x


Through technological determinism, it may be perceived that the introduction of the printing press and the increase in near-work, such as, reading and writing, within and outside the workplace [the scribe, copyist, bookkeeper, judge, teacher, medical practitioner, carpenter, embroider, etc. (Riccini, 2002:38)], led to heightened diagnostics, realisation of blurred vision at near, and hence the requirement of eyeglasses for myopia. However, the fact that both of these historical moments coincided conditions for the idea of mutual influence between the activities of society (reading and writing) and the technological apparatus produced (printing press). That the development of the printing press and the invention of the concave lens for 'correcting' myopia were of a casual relationship rather than a causal, happening by chance rather than one being the cause of another. Further, with the understanding of technological determinism there is a sense of technology acting as its own autonomous agent. In contradiction to this autonomy given to technology the artist, designer and design theorist Tomás Maladonado argues: technology as a part of society is conditioned "forcefully" by social, economic, and cultural dynamics (Riccini, 2002:33). Here, the emphasis lies in (modern) society's forceful influence on technology, on technological devices such as eyeglasses, and the printing press, rather than the other way around. Despite this, Maldonado reflecting on the historian Fernand Braudel's proposition that "everything is technology" (Braudel, 1985:334), goes on to determine a total identification of "technical action" and "societal action" (Riccini, 2002:33). The term 'action,' here, aligns both technology and society. In Braudel's pragmatic sense of action, a device being a way to produce a means to an end, proposed codified ways of intentionally manipulating the landscape and environment to achieve some desired or predicted outcome (Adams, 1996:11). For Braudel technology and society in this sense both became a way of actively (action as an active process) producing an objectified predictable end, outcome, product, and/or object. In summary, through this understanding it may be thought that technology and society are a symptom of one another, and act in producing an objectified perspective order of our worlds and landscapes. For Braudel, the device came to the foreground as the mode for contemplating, technology and society, as well as, their relationship to one another (Adams, 1996:11). The vast territory that Braudel gives to technology being everything and consequently then everywhere in our anthropogenic climate/environment/landscapes/ world leads to the need to consider more than just the designers, makers and users of the device, but rather the relationship of the device conceptually to society and ecologies in general. Hence, the device, beyond it being a mere artefact, may also act as a conceptual mode of thinking.



Note: Bratton's "Copernian shift presumes design's artificiality, but not its inflated sense of mastery. It doesn't imagine putting technology "back under control" because among the things that these technologies reveal is that it was never under our control in the first place, making both technological determinism and social reductionism obsolete. The latter would include critiques that limit their analysis of technologies to identify precedent human social relations that originate those technologies and forever haunt them. This view of technology as a mere "sociomorphic" artefact reflecting its conditions of appearance is sometimes also a kind of defence mechanism with which we reposition ourselves back at the center of a story when the implementations of that technology's revelation suggest otherwise." (Bratton, 2019: chapter "The Artificial Indeterminate", paragraph "The Artificial Indeterminate"). Social reductionism is antiquated; as if we are influenced also by technology and technology is influenced by us then, we are not placed solely at the centre narrated sphere, but rather as a component of it. Technologies contemporary today, also suggest and reveal that there are greater needs in terms of the climate crisis, destroyed ecologies, and planetary landscapes that are in need of greater intention, than for the bettering of devices for our species.


In dividing technology and society, once again advocates that technology is a separate entity, as its own being within and separate to society, and that it's actions never really being under our control. From this interpretation it may be suggested that both technology and society influence one another, rather than one being in control of the other, making technological determinism and social reductionism antiquated (Bratton, 2019). Contemporary to today, we can utilise this dialectic understanding to provoke the notion that technology is ubiquitous, because society is ubiquitous, and vice versa. As an item of wear; an item of dependency, eyeglasses, eyewear, and AR devices can be used as technical objects to symbolically explore this technological-societal macro-system relationship.



Note: Conceived in the statesman and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon's famous text philosophic-scientific text, Norum Organon (CXXIX), 1620: "Again, we should notice the force, effect, and consequences of inventions, which are nowhere more conspicuous than those three which were unknown to the ancients; namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these have changed the appearance and state of the whole world: first in literature, then in warfare, and lastly in navigation; and innumerable changes have been thence deprived, so that no empire, sect, or star appears to have exercised a greater power and influence on human affairs than these mechanical discoveries." The so-called classical philosophers of technology; Illich, Heidegger, Mumford, Ellul, and Borgan were fond of citing Bacon's remark and saw the ability of contemporary technology to transform our reality. However, "they preoccupied themselves more with the historical and transcendental conditions that have made modern technology possible than with the real changes accompanying the development of technological culture," which is sought to be addressed within this research. In all three, literature, warfare, navigation, we can associate glasses and lenses (Achterhuis, 2002).


Another historical markers of importance to the AR device  the invention of the mobile phone, by the fundamentalist Marty Cooper in 1973 (Teixeira, 2010) and the computer becoming personal, beyond government, institutions and...



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- coming to terms with physical reality and the material world


Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are often used as interchangable phrases, even so, there is a significant delineation that can be made between the two. AR holds a real-time relationship with the surroundings or situation, providing corresponding "textual, symbolic or graphical information" (Aukstakalnis, 2017:1). Whereas, VR replaces our world completely with that of the computer-generated image. A nice example of these differences and use of the two within one circumstance, is in the patent “US 2018/0311585 A1”, illustrating a “Second Screen Virtual Window into VR Environment”; see FIG. 1 (Osman, 2018: Sheet5).


x Fig. 1 x



Acting as a kind of inception, the VR player in the VR space views only that which is in the virtual world, whereas; the "2nd Player" with the phone screen views the virtual world that the VR player is seeing within the context of the real world, in real-time. Although this is not a strict representation of the AR that we may associate with a headset or glasses, it nevertheless, provides an interesting comparison and perspective into the space that the two worlds work and integrate themselves within. As well as, significantly how augmentation is readily present within our smartphone devices. An infamous example of the latter is accountable to Google Translate’s image capture. We hold our smart- phones up to a sign and it translates the words in real-time, to a language and terminology we speak and understand. This leads us to see a digital overlay of what is not really physically there* in material-physical space, but that which comes to be there is material-digital space. Other examples include ‘filters’ on Snapchat and Instagram. Through these examples we may come to reflect on the dynamics of materiality and reality and highlight the reality that is socially embedded in the techno-sphere of wearable devices, such as the mobile phone and AR device.


*Shows what is there, in a way that overlays the reality that we do not understand and only shows what we can recognise in our own terminology. What is ‘technologically’ there as opposed to what is ‘naturally’ there. This is where the interesting dynamics of reality and materiality come to mind. For the instances within this document (as well as in our everyday lives) reality is socially embedded in the techno- sphere of wearable devices.



AR is where a digital image has been overlayed, on top of the ‘real’ world, whereas in MR the digital image interacts with the users’ surrounding environment. In AR the real and virtual interact through our perspectives and through an augmenting enabling device such as these AR devices, or the smartphone. MR also requires an enabling device - an MR headset such as Microsoft Hololens. For this research, focus was made on AR instead of MR as it already takes prominence within our smartphone devices, generally being more predominant at infiltrating our contemporary everyday (Marr, 2020 & Interesting Engineering, 2020). In AR the real and the virtual are layered.


Note: VR, AR and MR collectively are known as Extended Reality



Within this document: the term ‘Augmented Vision’ (AV) is used with ‘Augmented Reality’ (AR), as AV/AR. As two separate entities, a concept (AV) and a device (AR) that coincide as a single entity (AV/AR) to demonstrate the AR device as a medium of exploration of the AV concept. AV as such more strictly demonstrates the ‘vision’ from the perceiver wearing the AR device (smart-glasses or headset). Whereas, AR acts as more of a descriptor of the augmented world, a device through which an augmented reality is accessible. Additionally, to note, AR has the potential to become more than just what we see, uniting itself with other augmenting, self-optimising and self quantifying devices, such as, sensors to monitor heart-rate, temperature, blood pressure, etc. This could potentially lead us to wearing a device which is able to diagnose, optimise and quantify us biometrically^ (biometrics^ technical term for body measurements and calculations) and inducing a sense that with the device the wearer is augmented. This document’s primary subject is of AV.


Both the AV concept and AR device concerns itself predominantly with the mechanisms of sight, the perceptual mechanisms of our visual apparatus, of which directly dictates the design and application of the technological device, and the attempted range of performance that it has set out to achieve (Aukstakalnis, 2017:xvii). The existing applications of augmentation emerge from laboratory experiments of military, scientific and industrial applications (Peddie, 2017). AR has come to now concern itself with the domains of entertainment, construction, architecture, science, engineering, healthcare, medicine, education, training, tele-robotics and many others (Aukstakalnis, 2017:xvii). Here, emphasising the expanding field of this technology and its potentiality in becoming as permeating as the internet, computer and mobile phone (Aukstakalnis, 2017:xiv). This section will attempt to lay the groundwork, by explaining some of the mechanics of the device, in order to relate to a more conceptual, generic understanding of AV from a more critical perspective later on.



Although, AV/AR popularly is most often linked to entertainment. To connect back to its background origins expressed in ‘Part 1’ this section concerns itself with configurations that have been made for AV/AR enabling it to be used for various healthcare applications, such as, for diagnostics, monitoring and/or therapy. It is in these applications that we see how the addition of various embodiment optics^(embodiment optics^ additional optical devices that can be mounted/ attached to the AR device to provide specific functional abilities, such as a waveguide, which guides waves to produce the desired optical prescription for the user) can be utilised to determine and correct the user’s optical prescription (Samec et al. 2019). Within this prescriptive application, the wavefront (waves of the same phase, vibrate in unison on the point of an (imaginary/real) surface) of light projected into the

user’s eye from the world can be adjusted in real-time to provide the required prescriptive correction, through automated feedback loops within the AR device. Here, the AV/AR device acts as a kind of modem between the input of the world, relative to an analysis of the user’s eye. The image projected from the outside word, attuned by the optics of the AV/AR device (prior to projection into the eye), generates configured 2D images, that can be projected at different focal depths into the eye (through a waveguide stack). This ultimately creates a sense of depth and provides the user with 3D-perception (Samec et al. 2019). The real-world, modified in real-time becomes stacked layers of encoded 2D images* - images that are induced by what we may perceive as technological ideologies.


*The messiness of the ‘real’ world is transposed into layers filled with 2D images of a more ideological world/design. The devices that we surround ourselves with aid us in experiencing the world. Attuning it to an ordered and more comprehensible experience, a rationalised experience. To make our complex world more intelligible. Through this determination, we may come to generalise that physics (as well as, other rational/quantification sciences that are reliant on statistical probabilistic measures) are there to aid us, in putting order into our experiences of the world and its landscapes (Ferrero & Sánchez-Gómez, 2015).




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seems to give more questions than answers




In attempt to unravel some of the complexity and vastness of coming to terms with physical reality and the material world, the concept of Augmented Vision provided an invaluable sense of ground, acting as a well needed although elusive, reference point. In drawing interest from the patents of AR technological devices, and reflecting on my background in optics, vision and perception, a scientific layer towards Augmented Vision and AR could be established when contemplating its concept, positioning and relation to design. Design inextricably tied to decisions about the lives we live and the worlds we live in, fundamentally our reality.



Faced with ever more complex challenges embedded in algorithmically coded languages within systems of automated feedback loops, design holds the opportunity to harness the expertise of different disciplines in order to develop an ever adaptive understanding of our continuously changing world. Whether it be through the symbolism of the device, or thought the thinking mechanism of Augmented Vision, this bionic future that we seem to be heading towards means that to survive we need to adapt to be of or with this digitalised, de-materialised technology with an increasingly intimate relationship that we have had before.



The more durable impact of emerging technologies such as the Augmented Vision/ AR devices discussed, is that they reveal that which is not new, but a nuance in the rationalised-old. As a symbolic example Augmented Vision/ AR actualise the complexity in the implementing refreshed visions and impose hybridised digital-material perceptions. In synthesis, Augmented Vision provides a purposeful-positive-potential in assessing the role digital and emerging technologies have in transforming the designed contexts of our environments. In addition, Augmented Vision brings the rationalised, quantified view of society into visibility and awareness, and furthers our understanding of what we know as "reality". Ultimately, through 'vision' our ways of perceiving the world are transformed by technology, as we have guided it, it has guided us, designing and paving the way for our species through embodied and hybridised relations towards an augmented future.


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An endearing thank you to the support and encouragement



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