Besides the immediate surly replies of “Because” or “Why not?” (my parental mind is leaking through here), I think it’s an interesting question and one I’ve encountered before, including a recent tangential discussion in the comments section about AR and eBooks.

So far I’ve written five novels and twelve short stories utilizing augmented reality and have plans for at least twice that many.  The first, The Digital Sea, is out and the others will be released in the next few years.  While not everything I’m writing has a relation to AR (my current project is about the ancient city of Alexandria and its greatest inventor), I do keep coming back to it for story fodder.

When I first conceived of the Digital Sea, I didn’t realize how many ways AR would influence my writing.  AR brings freedom to story telling, unlike VR and cyberpunk which required your setting to occur inside a computer.  While the masters of the genre, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, danced their characters in the meat space of our world, only dipping into cyber-reality when the plot depended on it, the cyber world as a story telling device is, in the end—limiting.

Augmented reality fashions a world meshed of reality and data and perception altering visuals.  AR layers upon the world, data constructs so thick, they’re like the proverb of the world being held up by turtles.  It’s turtles all the way down.

Or as Thomas Wrobel pointed out recently: “The other advantage story telling wise with AR is you don’t have to invent reasons why “dieing in the game world kills you for real!” that’s getting a bit of a tired troup in sci-fi for me.

In AR there’s no need to invent a reason why pulling the jack from your head, like in the Matrix, convinces you to die.  Instead, reality is still reality, and bullets are still bullets.  But intentions and how we hide them can be dangerous.  Convincing someone to walk off a building because you’ve hacked their geo-location and hid the fall beneath layers of false reality and advertising, there’s an assassin I can get into.

As well, the data exhaust from our digital world and real world colliding, provides information to be stored and found and manipulated.  Stories are about conflicting desires and the lies we tell to gain them.  What better than a Machiavellian creation, that can turn anything into a lie, even the very ground we walk.  That’s what augmented reality holds for me and why I utilize it for my fiction.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite AR videos that demonstrates the power of the technology as a perception changer.  It’s an oldie from early 2009, but I still find it fascinating.


Thomas K. Carpenter

Thomas K. Carpenter is a full time contemporary fantasy author with over 50 independently published titles. His bestselling, multi-series universe, The Hundred Halls, has over 25 books and counting. His stories focus on fantastic families, magical academies, and epic adventures.

  • Haha, great quote from Thomas Wrobel. It’s so true. Why do I die? Well, your brain gets scrambled up for … becoz eeerrh, … 🙂

    The video below is one of my favorits, too. The immersion works so perfectly – even without the best graphics. You’re just so focussed on completing your task and the green screen occlusion does the rest. 🙂

    Can’t wait to get the digital sea in my mailbox these days.


  • Yeah, that pit video still amazes me after two years. Having played the late 80s VR game dactyl nightmare, I can attest to how easily the mind is willing to be fooled by graphics that aren’t real.

    And hope you enjoy the book! 🙂

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