Thomas Carpenter of Games Alfresco was pretty impressed by the AR app that superimposes an oil slick on any BP logo within the frame of its image capture, and started riffing on the idea of gonzo AR – a sort of “the world as seen by [x]” idea, taking the idea of reality being defined by personal perceptions right down to the granular level of individuals.
An unofficial game of object-association could make great interactive art, political rhetoric, or dystopic reinforcing world-view; depending on its implementation. Wouldn’t you like to point your smartphone at everyday objects and find out how your favorite artists or celebrities view the world? Seeing how YoYo Ma, or the Dalai Lama or Bruce Campbell (the guy from the Evil Dead series) view the world could be liberating. Or since our own Bruce Sterling is the Prophet of AR, one of the AR browsers could do a “Bruce Layer” and show us what kind of world he sees when he’s looking around.
Maybe if Glenn Beck was your thing, you’d have a Nazi symbol pop-up when you pointed it at an Obama sticker. Or if you were a former Bush-hater, you could see a Stalin-esque version of the W with your smartphone. Propaganda could be all encompassing, blotting out all but the sanctioned viewpoints.
I think we can safely assume that AR (like any other media) will get pretty ugly when mainstream politics gets a hold of it… although, going on past form, that’ll probably happen a few years after everyone else has moved on to something more novel. Back to Mr Carpenter:
And maybe that’s what a gonzo-reality could bring to AR. Instead of a mirror reflecting all of our beliefs into an ever-increasing sine wave, we might be privy to alternate views to our own. Maybe even trying out how someone else sees the world.
Or maybe we couldn’t handle their viewpoint. The overstimulating rush would make our realities spin around us until we puked it back out, losing all those alternate nutrients our world views could have used to grow.
And there you have it; new technology, same old spectre of confirmation bias. Still, if AR ends up as ubiquitous and packed with stuff as the existing internet, cognitive bias will at least be a whole lot of fun.
Keen to get some serious ink, but not so keen on spending hours under the needle? Not to mention fielding the reactions of your family, friends and colleagues? Well, good news – draw a basic QR barcode on your arm with black marker, and everyone will see it covered with whatever fierce and gnarly tattoo designs you specify. Provided they’re looking at it with the right filters and layers activated in their AR headset, of course…
Obviously very crude and basic at the moment, but the potential for complete appearance changes is easily extrapolated… and there’s the advantages of non-permanence to consider, too. Tattoos and the more adventurous forms of elective surgery have a tendency to hamper one’s progress in mainstream life (if there can be said to be any such thing any more)… this way, you can show your colours to them who’ll appreciate (or respect, or fear) them without having to watch the corner-store cashier flinch for the emergency button every time you go in for a bottle of milk.
Actually, once you start thinking about it, you realise that appearance will become almost as mutable and fluid as identity itself, once AR becomes as ubiquitous as phone handsets already are. The terminal corrosion of objective reality continues apace…
While the vast majority of the European and Stateside augmented reality ideas I see galloping through my RSS feeds are stolid and practical apps with obvious commercial potential – mapping, navigation, informational – you can always rely on Japan to come up with something that little bit more alien. Pink Tentacle found this video of Miruko, a wearable eyeball-robot that:
… scans the surroundings in search of virtual monsters that are invisible to the naked human eye. When a virtual monster is spotted, the mechanical eyeball rolls around in its socket and fixes its gaze on the monster’s location. By following Miruko’s line of sight, the player is able to locate the virtual monster and “capture” it via his or her iPhone camera.
No details as to who Miruko’s creators are, unfortunately, but I expect we’ll be hearing more from them before too long. Probably around about the time they sell the idea to the Pokemon people…
I linked to Jan Chipchase in passing when we were talking about in-game advertising the other day, but since then he’s posted more detailed thoughts on the corporate future of contextual advertising and augmented reality. If you don’t believe that the colonisation of augmented reality spaces by relentless barrages of commercial messages and content is inevitable, think again:
Spend enough time around corporate sales folk, whatever the industry, and sooner or later someone will talk about ‘owning’ the customer – where they are so into your brand that the next sales are inevitable. When it comes to visual media its all about owning eyeballs – diverting your gaze to their advertising and content […]
Ah – nobody’s going to stick an advertising driven augmented reality lens in their eye, right? How about for ‘free’ healthcare monitoring? Or because speed-dating is so much more fun when you have real time sexual preference look-ups on the people you’re looking at? Or simply because the alternative ways of viewing at the world put you milliseconds behind your social network in the connectivity stakes.
Yeah, this reasoning is all so base, ugly, techno-utopian. Sure, it *may* be about delivering the optimal augmented reality experience, but optimal for whom? There ain’t no such thing as (looking at a) free lunch.
Do no evil? To the shareholders!
To quote a band I’m rather fond of, this is the first draft of a worst case scenario – perhaps it won’t work out quite so badly. If we’re lucky. [image by Arturo de Albornoz]
All this talk about augmented reality is all well and good, but wandering around holding up a little rectangular gadget to see things through is hardly an elegant science fictional solution, now is it?
As a fully paid-up cyberpunk, I want everything as tightly integrated to the meat as possible – so I want my AR operating no further from me than the surface of my eyeballs. Luckily I shouldn’t have too long to wait – at least not if Babak Parviz of the University of Washington has the successes he hopes for with his augmented reality contact lens concept:
Conventional contact lenses are polymers formed in specific shapes to correct faulty vision. To turn such a lens into a functional system, we integrate control circuits, communication circuits, and miniature antennas into the lens using custom-built optoelectronic components. Those components will eventually include hundreds of LEDs, which will form images in front of the eye, such as words, charts, and photographs. Much of the hardware is semitransparent so that wearers can navigate their surroundings without crashing into them or becoming disoriented. In all likelihood, a separate, portable device will relay displayable information to the lens’s control circuit, which will operate the optoelectronics in the lens.
These lenses don’t need to be very complex to be useful. Even a lens with a single pixel could aid people with impaired hearing or be incorporated as an indicator into computer games. With more colors and resolution, the repertoire could be expanded to include displaying text, translating speech into captions in real time, or offering visual cues from a navigation system. With basic image processing and Internet access, a contact-lens display could unlock whole new worlds of visual information, unfettered by the constraints of a physical display.
Parviz has a long old article there, and for those with a more technical bent it gives an insight into the way the contacts will actually work… though he’s canny enough not to put a solid date on the technology becoming available. [via New York Times; image by pasukaru76]
I wonder if he needs any test subjects?