John Murrell on augmented reality:
As we know from extensive science fiction research, one day we will be equipped with unobtrusive and tastefully designed technology that will project before our eyes a heads-up display of information related to whatever real-life scene we're looking at. That level of augmented reality, however, is a ways down the road, and unfortunately that road is likely to be strewn with the broken bodies of early adopters.
Thanks to the growth in smartphones equipped with large screens, cameras, compasses and GPS, location- and marker-based augmented reality (AR) is in the early stages of a hype cycle. Companies like Layar are building browser apps that look where you're looking and pull in layers of data from reference sources and social media. Startup Wikitude on Wednesday launched a new update of its software for Android handsets that integrates social tagging of physical locations, and an iPhone version is on the way. Apple's App Store recently got its first AR offering when an app called Metro Paris Subway added a feature that superimposes labels for station locations and points of interest over the view through your iPhone.
At this early stage in AR evolution, however, the displays are not heads-up, but hands-up, and that means we will be seeing a new class of situational zombies roaming our streets. We’ve already grown used to dodging around the people with heads bowed over their phones in the texting prayer position and the distracted pedestrians engrossed in conversation with their invisible companions over their Bluetooth headsets. Soon we'll be seeing more folks shuffling around with their smartphone screen held up in their line of vision, absorbed in their augmented reality data, and we'll be faced with a dilemma: keep a watchful eye on these people and tackle them before they wander into traffic or fall into a manhole, or just allow the Darwinian process to cull the herd.
While part of the point of some augmented reality research is to avoid exactly that kind of zombie state, by creating technologies that layer information on top of views (or displays them on things, or what have you), I suspect Murrell is onto something. I got my iPhone a
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