This is only the latest example of “augmented reality,” in which the material world is somehow enhanced by the digital. The implications of a 3D printed handgun are staggering enough before considering the myriad ways in which the digital continues to colonize the material. What is the impact on our legal and other societal systems, in which we respect the free flow of information, but there is increasing impetus to control firearms?
People have often seen cyberspace as separate from the physical world. But technologies like the augmented reality of Google Glass or the desktop manufacturing of three-dimensional printing are blurring that line. As the digital and physical converge, the results will have “a transformational effect on the nature of human experience,” says Matt Ratto, a critical-information scholar at the University of Toronto.For starters, people will be able to print gun parts.Mr. Ratto drove home that reality recently in an academic project that has provoked widespread discussion across Canada. Using the 3-D printer in his critical-making lab, housed at the university’s Robarts Library, he printed a nonworking handgun. It’s called the “Liberator.” Mr. Ratto and his colleagues assembled it from plastic components that were produced from a blueprint downloaded off the Web.
- The Professor Who Printed a Handgun (chronicle.com)