On Augmented Reality and how it will change our lives

There is a branch of philosophy that argues that what we experience is in fact reality…. This is debatable (every thing is, when you get right down to it), but it’s a particularly interesting viewpoint if we look forward a few years to a new technology that is emerging, Augmented Reality.

Wikipedia defines Augmented Reality (AR) as a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality. Basically, you have some sort of computer overlaying digital images over the real world.

It gets really interesting when you combine these with something like this and the networking capabilities of a modern cell phone. What they all combine to do is give you a real-time, internet connected, digital overlay of everything you see, navigated by your thoughts alone.

Want to know what shops are in that mall over there? Easy. How about looking up the specs for that sweet car behind you in the traffic? All you have to do is think about it. How much do those shoes cost? How the $%^# do I get home from here? What’s the traffic like on the M1? The possibilities are virtually (no pun intended) endless. Think what it would be like to have easy and constant access to knowledge sources like Google or Wikipedia. These are all fairly basic continuations of services we already have in place, but this kind of always on AR also opens up a whole new world of weirdness.

We could have digital tattoos, for instance, a simple signal broadcast to AR devices around you tells them to overlay a given picture (or animation) over a part of your body. Why stop at tattoos? When the imaging resolution gets advanced enough (and it will), we could portray an entire appearance that is drastically different to, but indistinguishable from, ‘reality’. Soon you’ll be sharing the sidewalk or bus with elves and vampires. This technology could also have an impact on architecture; we could digitise facades for our buildings, creating epic and physically impossible views and spaces.

Possibly the most exciting, and dangerous, use of this technology would be it’s integration with social networking. Have you ever thought of how useful telepathy would be? To be able to simply think at someone and have them respond? Of course, there’s a darker aspect as well, stalking is already rampant on sites like facebook or myspace, and it can only get worse when we can pick out someone’s profile just by looking at them.

The benefits of this technology are too numerous for any but a Luddite to even consider boycotting it, but it will have profound effects on how we interact with each other and the physical world. It’s going to be interesting to see how people adapt.

Who knows? In a few years we might have to completely redefine what we consider as ‘Real’.


Aaaand in other news:

Get Naked: It’s Good for Your Brain – Here’s one to send to your girlfriends (or boyfriends) ^^

AI/Nanotech Breakthrough? Transistors That Work Like Our Brains Do – A really interesting research track, and one that (if it works) could produce the first sentient computers.

NASA Prepping Plans For Flexible Path To Mars – NASA’s coming up with a new plan to be productive during the recession.

Ursula Le Guin’s Petition Against Google Books – One of my favorite authors has organized a petition against Google’s terms and conditions in their Google Books program… I’m at a loss over who to support.

Uranus and Neptune May Have “Oceans of Diamonds” – more of our solar system’s wonderful weirdness.

SETI Founder Outlines Ambitious Future Plans – the search for extraterrestrial intelligence continues

Dinosaur Feather Color Discovered – I never thought they’d be able to work this out… I’m really glad they did… SUGOI!

How Cyber War is Heating Up – the new face of warfare.


And there we have it… another post… and I haven’t missed a deadline yet (probably because I haven’t really set one ^^). Hope you enjoyed it, and if it’s got you thinking I hope you’ll post a comment with your thoughts. Tune in next week for more of the same.



“What we have here, is a failure to communicate”



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