Mediated Reality

What is mediated reality?

Computer Mediated reality means adding, subtracting or manipulating what we see through our eyes. What actually exists is real and after real images are manipulated by using a computer, this becomes mediated reality, which is what our eye sees. This is not done by implanting computers in our brain but placing a camera between the world and the eyes, and processing the images taken by camera using a computer before the eyes sees them. In simple terms, we see the actual world through camera and mediated reality is presented to our eyes. This eye tap is the principle behind Meta’s Space Glasses, Google Glass and other mediated reality devices.

The figure on left shows mediated reality system. Information is processed before presenting to human eye. The figure on right shows a venn diagram description of mediated reality

Uses in everyday life

♦ Eyetap (or digital glass) can allow a computer to act as an information filter. For example, we can choose not to see certain advertisements that we find offensive or disturbing. On the other hand, we can amplify other things that we want to notice and observe in more detail
♦ when you are in grocery store, a message appears on each item that your spouse told you to buy. Milk, eggs etc. The message in reality is not on milk carton. This is an instance of mediated reality.

Surveillance vs Sousveillance

The word “veillance” is a French word which means “watching” and French prefix “sur” means “from above”. Therefore surveillance means “to watch from above”. Surveillance cameras are a popular and effective way to monitor the security of an area. They are installed by people responsible for the property (owners or managers) and people under surveillance have no control over them.

Sousveillance is the term coined by Prof. Steve Mann, the father of wearable computing. Sousveillance is opposite of surveillance. The French prefix “sous” means “from below”, therefore sousveillance means “to watch from below”. Sousveillance refers to veillance or “watching” by cameras borne by people who are under surveillance.

Why Sousveillance?

There are a number of uses to sousveillance, however, the most important application of sousveillance is personal security.

When an agreement is signed between two parties, each party is given a copy of the agreement which ensures that if the agreement is not honored by a party, the other party can apply for justice using the copy of agreement in court. However, if there is only one copy (say with party A), and party A is at fault, and destroys the agreement, there is no way party B can get justice. This situation applies to surveillance and sousveillance.

As described above, it is important for individuals to have access to the copy of video recordings to ensure their personal safety and accountability of responsible person for that area. An unfortunate incident occurred with Prof. Steve Mann on July 1st 2012 at McDonald’s in Paris where he was physically assaulted by McDonald’s staff for wearing Digital Eye glass (which has a camera). He explains the details on his blog

Organizations such as McDonalds have a lot more power than individuals when it comes to fighting for justice (they have an army of lawyers, financial resources etc.) and yet they do all the surveillance and use it if individuals (their customers) are on the wrong side. However, in an event that the staff’s behavior was inappropriate, they can destroy the evidence to safeguard their public image.

Therefore, clearly there is an equal, if not greater, need for sousveillance as compared to surveillance.