Posted by: goalpath | November 3, 2009

Augmented Reality – Is Technology Becoming the New Reality?

In the beginning there was normal reality. What you saw was what was there. Then there was altered reality, but that was in the sixties and you needed a competent drug dealer to ensure you could return from your trip on Transcendental Airways. Next came virtual reality and if normal reality didn’t do it for you, then you could create your own virtual persona and be as cool as you thought you should be. Now there is Augmented Reality. How many realities will we need to experience before it is all said and done? How about your own robotic surrogate? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate augmentation? Well it is the twenty first century.

According to Wikipedia, “Augmented reality (AR) is a term for 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. The augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, like for example sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally usable.”

Practical applications for augmented reality are mostly about digitally overlaying information over what you are seeing in real time. These types of applications have been used by the military for years. Head’s up displays in jet fighters, helicopters and tanks are just one example. The yellow first down line on a television broadcast of your favorite college or NFL game is another example. Some automobiles have digital displays projected on the inside of the windshield just above the dash board so you can check your speed or fuel level without taking your eyes off the road.

The most popular consumer uses for AR are apps for smart phones. Yelp was one of the first AR companies to develop apps for the iPhone. Using a Yelp app, you can aim your iPhone at a restaurant and it will overlay reviews and other information about that eatery. Another app will allow you to point the iPhone at an historical site and the app will provide you with a summarized history of that landmark or show you what that site looked like 100 years earlier.

There are apps in development that will use facial recognition to find entertainment or business celebrities in a crowd. Another will allow you to aim your phone at a classmate at a reunion and view that person’s social networking pages. Of course, there will be apps that provide directions from your location to the closest Starbucks if you point your phone at the street sign in any major city.

What if everyone in New York or London is walking around holding their smart phone in front of their face to augment their own reality. How long will it take for them to run into a wall, another person, a poll or walk into oncoming traffic? You thought it was bad enough just having people around you talking or texting on their smart phones while walking or driving. In the future they might be looking through them.

Of course, if that technology takes off, people will purchase glasses or goggles that provide the digital overlays. I have even read about a company that is working on contact lenses that will provide you with terminator eyes complete with computer graphics layered onto your lenses. Naturally, you can expect Washington to provide legislation that will keep us from harming ourselves or others while using this technology.

In the movie, Surrogates, people had human like robots carrying out there day to day activities, while the humans cloistered themselves indoors in their homes or apartments. The humans controlled their surrogates through virtual eyewear and headset devices they put on when it was time for their robots to leave their homes and go about their daily routine.

Their surrogate robots interacted with other surrogate robots both at work and socially while the humans reclined in their beds and vicariously interacted with the other surrogates. I can’t imagine how anyone could go without real human interaction for a long period of time. And if you thought obesity was a problem today, just consider how humans would look if they spent all day reclining in bed.

Is the authenticity of our human existence being supplanted by a digital existence? Social interaction and personal communication are being replaced by digital interaction via smart phones, email and Facebook. And if you think that I am a Luddite rebelling against all forms of technology, you would be wrong. After all, I am writing this blog on my Toshiba notebook computer and publishing it on my web site, Linkedin and WordPress.

I do believe it is reasonable to question the impact of technology on our daily lives. I did grow up in the fifties when social interaction was the only interaction and the only reality. I can certainly see the value in having instant global communication capabilities and the world’s knowledge base at your finger tips. Let’s just not replace ourselves with digital devices. There is a lot to be said for the human experience and face to face human interaction. That is, after all, what makes us human isn’t it?

What is your take on this topic? Technology evolution is impacting everyone on the planet. Now for my shameless plug: If you are a Baby Boomer and haven’t joined our community, www.boomeropinion.com, please consider it. It is free and only takes a couple of minutes to sign up. You can share your viewpoint and voice your opinion on the critical issues facing America. And if we recruit enough of you, we can positively impact business and political policies around the country.

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