Most people have heard of “Virtual Reality” by now — and most probably associate it with demonstrations they’ve seen, where the user can move through a computer-generated 3D world — much like being inside a video game.
Increasingly, though, computer technology is being used to enhance reality — not just replace it. The field of “augmented reality” — where the view is mostly natural with a few CG enhancements — is becoming more and more prevalent. When it’s done right, as the NFL has done with on-field graphics, it can be hard to tell just what is real and what is CG…
The man (father?) in this cartoon appears annoyed that the boy didn’t understand that the first-down line is a figment of the NFL computers’ imagination. Given a little thought, this makes sense — there is no realistic way to erase and repaint the line on the field so quickly, so it must be CG. But for a small child who had only seen football games on TV (and given his age, always with the CG additions), it’s a relatively easy mistake to make. If the graphics had been a bit more subtle (perhaps a corporate logo digitally painted onto the field?), it could well be mistaken for real field coloration.
The lines between reality, augmented reality, and VR get harder to distinguish each year. How long before they disappear altogether?