With the continues improvements on mobile devices and the growing acceptance of information technology there’s a lot of exiting things to expect in our nearby future. Last weekend I attended the AR Dev Camp hosted by Mediamatic in Amsterdam and i got quite excited about some new applications currently in development. But it’s not all hallelujah, there are also some major concerns that should not be swept away to lightly. Does this picture represent a bright new future or a techno-nightmare?
With the immense growth of their processing power computers moved from huge machineries to our offices and living rooms. Desktops computers became portable and we started carrying them around in suitcases or backpacks. Mobile phones now have become mobile devices, capable of much more sophisticated features. Just to give an example: the first iPhone released carried a processor running over twice the speed of the first generation of iMac desktops released less then 10 years ago. But it’s not just the processing speed; the iMac and iPhone both pinpoint landmarks in the way we think about the function of computers in our everyday live. The iMac was the first computer without a floppy drive (floppy what?) as Apple firmly believed in the power of internet replacing physical media for information access, the iPhone is doing exactly the same in a mobile context.
In the first presentation at AR Dev Camp Steven Pemberton stressed the importance of open accessible data and linked networks. The value of our computers and mobile devices increases significantly if they have access to more data sources (with the internet as an example this should not be disputable but for those interested the maths are here) It’s quite ironic that Apple’s rigid aim for control seems to contradict the greatest quality of their most successful products; the iMac, iPod and the iPhone. As technology is getting more and more nested into our everyday live this may raise serious concerns. Pempleton mentioned Steve Mann, a quite remarkable figure who has been experimenting with mobile computing since the early 1980’s and was the first person to realize a mobile connection. Here’s an impression of the progress Steve Mann has realized:
We could easily state the technology needed to realize augmented reality is there or will be available soon. It is however virtually impossible to predict in what form this new technology will be accepted by a broad public of consumers. Will the mobile device formerly known as phone be the carrier of information for the next decades? If the right companies with the most talented designers would put a serious effort in designing a smaller device could that go beyond Steve Mann’s techno-fetish-fashion statement? Rumors of an Apple patent on goggles for iPhone and iPad (patent filing at april 1…) at least got some people excited; if they are going to develop such a device i’d like to suggest a name; call it iBrows.
In either way data is linked much closer to our real world environment, as shown by either Satnav systems or mobile applications like Layar. Development of content for the Layer platform is going fast, the number of layers offered is growing rapidly. At the AR Dev Camp Johannes la Poutre from squio made an interesting observation on the Layer ecosystem. He stated we are moving beyond the “where is…” approach in which the layer offers us directions to a hotel, a letter box or possibly even a phone booth. Augmented Reality can do much more then present dry facts, it’s all about experience.
I doubt everyone in the audience realized the tremendous impact of moving from information to experience, but Johannes was, in my humble opinion, spot on. We should stop thinking of augmented reality in terms of technology. How do people actually use mobile devices and what can we learn from the successes of the internet? One thing thats beyond any doubt is the fact is connectivity. Internet and mobile devices not only allow us to get information, their huge success is based on connecting and sharing with other people. If we want these new technologies to add real value they should not aim at turning us into cyborg zombies connected to the net but totally disconnected from everything else.
If you’re talking experience it’s got to be social.