What happens when the content cloud descends? Rocket science or people science?
Here is a really simple metaphor to illustrate the pervasiveness and societal significance of Augmented Reality. For the past 20 years humanity has been ‘floating’ its content (its personas, its information, life data, economy and social media) creating a distant, electronic cloud drifting, conceptually, way up above us. A cloud that is only reachable when we area able to connect to it via a variety of fixed and mobile ‘information’ screens, themselves connected to a veritable wormhole aka the global internet. (In reality hundreds of thousands of servers murmuring around the world with billions connected via hard wiring to receive richer media & experiences).
Up until now this ‘content cloud’ (different to cloud computing) has been abstractly disconnected from our physical lives – we read news about California earthquakes sitting in Australia, we view videos on the train of a concert three weeks ago at a local venue, we have personal social networks fragmented across time and space, play a game set in Hong Kong on a screen in London, Facebook groups comprised of half friended, remote avatars (the extended self ). 99% of the content in the cloud is not relevant to here and now (although a philosophical moot point if the now ‘is’ the participation and consumption itself?!)
In a near AR future, non geo-sensitive content will be perceived as incomplete
But that cloud, has reached saturation, it no longer can keep afloat, there is just too much or rather just enough content to be temporally and geographically relevant. In other words there is so much ‘stuff’ up there that it now makes sense to access it, in a true Web 3.0 way, in real time, the present moment from anywhere you are. It will at its simplest level be Google Earth, slowly morphing out of your PC screen, growing to global scale and locking into place over the real world or Facebook mapping itself onto the billion users faces out in the street, advertisers reaching out to where ever you are, personalizing your everyday life with relevancy vs noise.
The always on cloud has now become very useful to a range of stakeholders. Marketeers, storytellers & users alike. Mists of information, media and experiences will engulf onto our cities and physical infrastructure, it will become a persistent fog that will coat everything in its path with layers of time and place stamped content. It will create a web of layers, of parallel narratives and realities and enhance our experiences.
OK fluffy intro over and this leads to some high level areas of a ‘consultancy’ whitepaper I did mid last year (which annoyingly I still can’t publish) but some key themes are explored below.
What does this mean on the ground, a ground covered in this fog of information. The transformative effect of our physical world being invaded by ‘cyberspace’ will make the current discussions about social network privacy seem like a children’s party. When the ‘web’ spreads into and permeates our real world will their be any hiding places. As portable screens become practical (think iPad with camera), pervasive wearable computing becomes commonplace and surveillance technology evolves to being ubiquitous and transparent – society will evolve way ahead of government and law, who powerless to stop the flow of information on connected screens will be even more powerless to stop this flow moving into real space?
“Augmented reality allows people to visualize cyberspace as an integral part of the physical world that surrounds them, effectively making the real world clickable and linked,” says Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm.
The videos below might give them ‘digital’ food for thought.
Beware: I would like to point out everything below has already happened or about to launch in the next few months.
FIRSTLY – RECENT VISIONS OF THE DESCENDING CLOUD
From Eyetap.org (a wearable computing lab in Toronto) – “Stewart Morgan discusses Architecture of Information on the show Daily Planet. It is a visionary short film showing augmented reality, and the implications of it’s applications.” From 2007
THE PERSONAL CLOUD
What kind of society will it be when our personal profiles, details and content are available to anyone in the street simply by scanning our face. That person across the train carriage, are they really playing an iPhone game or finding out ‘everything’ about you, well at least that which you have placed on the open web? A short video that will shock forward thinkers…
PERSONALIZED MOMENT & MOVEMENT AUGMENTED MARKETING
Straight from one of my talks in early 2000 about how various sci-fi authors, Speilberg’s Minority Report film or others like Gattaca might be the ultimate personalization but I didn’t think then we would be less than 10 years away from early street ready prototypes. This example is almost suitable for an alternate reality game, faux corporate company doing ‘bad’ things to society but no, it is real. Check out the Sarnoff Corp site and this video.
A SOCIETY WHERE THERE IS NO HIDING PLACE
Geocaching linked to the cloud means anyone active in the cloud is traceable. Applications can detect who and where you are – at first it may be to within tens of meters, eventually to within centimeters. The phrase ‘to go dark’ will be something all of us may have to consider in the very near future?
WHERE OUR ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCES ARE AROUND US AND IN REAL TIME
I have covered this in a few past posts (eg New Playgrounds Augmented Reality Story Worlds) but the desire to be non-passive is much stronger in younger demographics and their entertainment will be much more social, pervasive and game like. Why watch someone else being the investigator, when you can ‘live’ it for yourself? Ghostwire.
AN AUGMENTED WORLD WHERE ALL YOU DO IS TRACKED AS PART OF A LIFE LOYALTY SYSTEM
A sobering talk from Jesse Schell at a TED conference recently, When Games Invade Real Life (which is more about when technology or the cloud itself invades real life)
Games are invading the real world — and the runaway popularity of Farmville and Guitar Hero is just the beginning, says Jesse Schell. At the DICE Summit, he makes a startling prediction: a future where 1-ups and experience points break “out of the box” and into every part of our daily lives.
WHERE AUGMENTED JUST DOESN’T MEAN – STUFF ON A SCREEN BUT TRULY TOUCHES YOU
For now, his prototype robot is a collection of sensors, small motors, vibrators and speakers woven into a series of straps similar to a parachute harness, minus the parachute. Connected to a computer, the device can simulate several types of heart beat, a realistic hug, the tickling sensation of a butterfly stomach, and a tingling feeling along the spine. It can also generate warmth.
and the screen itself extends out into the real world – Sixth Sense
WHEN OUR LIVES WILL DEPEND ON AUGMENTED REALITY SURGERY
Things have moved on immensely since the early trials and now remote surgery or diagnosis will become dependent on advanced AR technology. Is it something we could become over reliant on?
WHEN EVERY PIECE OF TECHNOLOGY IS AUGMENTED REALITY CAPABLE
Every new smart mobile device brings with it the question – is it truly portable? is it connected? does it have a camera? will it run Augmented Reality apps?
A WORLD WHERE WE LEARN USING LAYERS OF ENHANCEMENTS
Education is already benefitting from the remote cloud. What will it mean when they can layer that information over real space, will it bring it to life, be temporary and superficial or become the new way to learn. Physically with all knowledge available as on overlay?
WHEN AUGMENTED REALITY PERVADES OUR MOST POPULAR MEDIA FORMS
Landmark games such as Heavy Rain utilise for one of it’s investigative characters almost real world AR capability and introduces another million or so to its potential. Thanks Tom Carpenter for video
A WORLD WHERE PHYSICAL SPACE AND SEARCH ARE INEXTRICABLY INTERTWINED
And the biggest search engine on the planet takes over our towns and cities, linking physical shapes with the cloud – Google Goggles anyone?
A WORLD WHERE THE WORLD ITSELF IS REPLACED BY THE BAD CLOUD
“The latter half of the 20th century saw the built environment merged with media space, and architecture taking on new roles related to branding, image and consumerism. Augmented reality may recontextualise the functions of consumerism and architecture, and change in the way in which we operate within it.”
A WORLD WHERE THE WORLD ITSELF IS REPLACED BY THE GOOD CLOUD
Although conceptual this ability to track real world objects and overlay them with ‘alternates’ (in the video below) has been around for a few years, the big difference now is your iPad, DSi, PSP or camera equipped smart phone can do it. The cloud descending doesn’t mean information overload as the previous video suggests, it could mean ‘magical realism’ (that oh so trendy new film genre) is part of all our lives. Thanks to Jennifer Wilson for pointing me at this a few weeks ago.
So the videos above are just the tip of the iceberg, or rather to not mix metaphors, the bottom of the descending cloud. I have deliberately kept away in this post from the ‘cool’ augmented reality apps that are being jumped on by marketeers and flailing heritage media companies but tried to show apps that have a deliberate resonance with the cloud. Whether educational, personal, utility or lifestyle the effects of the first edges of the cloud touching our world are extremely portentous. I would imagine no one can sit on the fence, if they do they might not notice the fence itself become virtual. The profound shift as the matrix bursts it banks will provoke rushed regulation and lame legislation. No one organisation will be equipped enough to see through the fog as this cloud descends, do you have your ‘visibility’ goggles ready?
UPDATE: Almost forgot. I will be part of a three speaker panel on AR at Sydney’s Byteside event on Tues 13th April – more info here.
The Tech Show – Augmented Reality
Fusing digital data with the real world via smart devices, the future of augmented reality is certain to play a huge role in our everyday lives. From car GPS devices that paint directions on real world imagery, to mobility applications to enhance social life and gaming. This is the future, and it’s upon us now.