Augmented Reality – beauty or a beast?

  • Image courtesy Jamais Cascio
  • Image courtesy Jamais Cascio
Date:16 November 2009 Author: Sean Woods

Mention augmented reality to most people and their response is “What?”

I love technology, especially when it makes our lives easier. However, I believe that technological developments need to be managed, let’s say by tech-savvy consumers (namely us), to prevent them from running rampant and turning us into victims of our own cleverness. After all, we’re supposed to be the beneficiaries, right?

For me, augmented reality (AR) is a perfect case in point.

Simply put, AR involves the layering of digital information on to the physical world to give us a more informed “picture” of whatever we’re looking at in real time. And the beauty is any cellphone with a built-in GPS, compass, camera and 3G Internet connection can utilise it.

Applications for AR are endless. You’ll be able point your smartphone’s camera at a historic building and get tourist-related information about it from the Internet instantly displayed on your handset’s screen. Other cool applications include reading a restaurant’s menu from across the street without having to venture inside, finding a bed and breakfast in your area, or when and where you can catch the next bus.

When installed on computers AR will allow you to do things such as hold magazines up to their webcams and get moving images of what you’re reading about. You’ll also be able to pop down to your local post office, hold up a gift you want to send to a relative and see what size box you need to ship it in.

Recently we received some promotional material at PM’s office for the latest movie. By holding up the supplied image to a webcam while online, we were able to have an incredibly detailed tour of the Starship Enterprise. If you’re curious click here and check it out for yourself. Nothing wrong with that. I mean, how many of us don’t appreciate having as much information as possible at our fingertips to help us make better decisions?

What worries me, though, is an application being developed that uses face recognition technology to scavenge information from social networking sites. If this takes off, it means that any stranger in a public place can point their smartphone in your direction and get to know you a whole lot better than you’d ideally like.

I don’t know about you, but I like my private life to remain just that – private. Could this new technological wonder bring on the end of privacy as we know it?

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