Saturday, February 20, 2010

Augmented Reality


There is such a thing as too much information. Just as the "CrackBerry" phenomenon and Internet addiction are concerns, an overreliance on augmented reality could mean that people are missing out on what's right in front of them. Some people may prefer to use their AR iPhone applications rather than an experienced tour guide, even though a tour guide may be able to offer a level of interaction, an experience and a personal touch unavailable in a computer program. And there are times when a real plaque on a building is preferable to a virtual one, which would be accessible only by people with certain technologies.

There are also privacy concerns. Image-recognition software coupled with AR will, quite soon, allow us to point our phones at people, even strangers, and instantly see information from their Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, LinkedIn or other online profiles. With most of these services people willingly put information about themselves online, but it may be an unwelcome shock to meet someone, only to have him instantly know so much about your life and background.

Despite these concerns, imagine the possibilities: you may learn things about the city you've lived in for years just by pointing your AR-enabled phone at a nearby park or building. If you work in construction, you can save on materials by using virtual markers to designate where a beam should go or which structural support to inspect. Paleontologists working in shifts to assemble a dinosaur skeleton could leave virtual "notes" to team members on the bones themselves, artists could produce virtual graffiti and doctors could overlay a digital image of a patient's X-rays onto a mannequin for added realism.