Diminished Reality is the opposite of Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality developers aim to tag, identify, enhance and provide information on everything around us. By contrast, the field of Diminished Reality is the study and research into tools that remove parts of the world around us. The artistic applications are endless, but practical applications are:
- surgeons removing (or reducing opacity of) their hands during an operation, allowing them to see only their instruments and the patient
- concert-goers remixing live music, removing instruments and crowd noise but still being able to talk to the friend next to them
- cinema-goers removing the head of the person in front of them
- removal of crowds at events of all kinds, enabling better viewing
- soldiers being able to remove walls and buildings to see the people behind them
- police cameras that remove non-suspicious people from a view, enabling easier tracking through CCTV
- study the night sky by removing your roof, cloud cover and light pollution
- car windscreens that remove billboards and other distracting advertising
- touchscreen cameras that allow dynamic, live removal of people that are getting in the way of your shot.
- more enjoyable train journeys where commutees can enjoy a 360 degree view as they speed through the countryside
- the ability to progressively remove elements from a scene in order to isolate and study specific parts of it
- imagine losing your child in a crowd and being able to remove everyone around you except the child
- find your car in a busy carpark by optically removing all other cars
- identify your blind date immediately by subtracting people who are clearly not her
Clearly, the applications are many and wide. It’s also evident that we already have Diminished Reality devices, although they are still pretty unsophisticated. Ultrasound baby monitors, x-ray machines, noise-cancelling headphones and heat-detecting police cameras all point to where this technology is taking us.