nARratives of Augmented Worlds: A survey of early augmented reality fiction
“If interactive narrative is ever going to approach the emotional power of movies and drama, it will be as a three-dimensional world that opens itself to the body of the spectator but remains the top-down design of a largely fixed narrative script”
After a review of narrative theory in AR environments - considering the difference between a story (sequence of events) and narrative (the way those events are presented), as well as the likely blurring of fiction (the story) and reality (the mobile environment) in AR, and the broad treatment of the term text in this article to include all forms of communications including hardware and buildings, versus their definition of a medium, which extends beyond the hardware to include "a set of conventions, practices and design approaches that authors make use of to create a familiar and meaningful experience for the user" - the authors survey features of early AR fiction experiences, distinguishing between
1) Situated (local, quick) augmented experiences,
2) Location based narratives (using a few, sparsely located portals in a wider area)
3) World-level AR experiences sited across an entire neighbourhood, or city, or globally that tend to run for longer periods.
1) Situated augmented experiences
- AR/Fac¸ade: A portable version of a previous, breakthrough, interpersonal audio-visual dialogue interaction with a warring couple, AR/Fac¸ade allowed users to inhabit the same physical/virtual space as the drama’s main characters, Tripp and Grace, while wearing an AR headset and a portable computer. In order to maintain the illusion the virtual characters could not respond with commands like 'invalid input'.
- Three Angry Men (TAM): An interactive experience that allows users to explore the scene from different physical points of view (which trigger character behaviour changes, rather than plot variations).
- "inbox": An AR installation that allowed users to enter a shipping container and trigger short stories about the shipping industry by engaging AR markers in the space.
2) Location based narratives
- M-Views: Users were encouraged to walk around the MIT campus and encounter a distributed and modular, variable order cinematic narrative, embedded about the campus.
- Murder on Beacon Hill: A murder mystery tour of downtown Boston
- GEIST: A similar approach is used to tell the history of 17th century Heidelburg
- Hopstory: Added the option for users to act in their own timeline and move to different locations throughout the building, adding a layer of time and evolution
- The Westwood Experience: The creators used real live actors and physical setups to increase the immersion, alongside computer vi- sion methods for landmark locations. At certain points the actors broke out of character to explain technical aspects of this Nokia research project.
- The Oakland Experience: A mostly linear audio only tour of a cemetary, with branching mini-stories around single graves.
- : Combined a positional tracking system with a directional microphone to create an unfolding narrative in the changing landscape surrounds of a motor car drive-through (whilst there were some branches, mostly the drive had to be linear, without room for variation)
3) World level augmented narratives
- Alternate Reality Games e.g. 'Conspiracy for Good': Involved both online and offline presence with live actors. The master narrative was fixed, but players had the option to change the advent, or order of the next story 'beat' which supported the impression that they were changing the story.
These examples often emphasised exploration of real world spaces in order to support both a sense of interactivity and narrative progression.
In order to help guide users through this exploration AR markers were used, as well as non-marker signposts e.g buildings and objects that might be more compatible with the fictive immersion.
Shilkrot, R., Montfort, N. and Maes, P., 2014, September. nARratives of augmented worlds. In 2014 IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality-Media, Art, Social Science, Humanities and Design (ISMAR-MASH'D) (pp. 35-42). IEEE.
The USW Audience of the Future research team is compiling a summary collection of recent research in the field of immersive, and enhanced reality media