Saturday, February 11, 2006

Augmented Reality

The bicycle was a revolutionary invention. Suddenly, a person without a lot of money could travel at least five times as fast as walking, without as much effort. Instead of needing a horse and carriage to travel long distances, anyone with a little money and their health could travel long distances.

I think the internet is like that. Not, obviously, to help in making travel affordable (unless you're an electron). Instead, the internet is going to make information accessible at any moment, to anyone. The prerequisites will be few: access to the web, and the ability to read. (although that last one may fall away, eventually).

Right now, the internet and computers are at the cusp of a revolution in thought. With sources like Wikipedia, Google Scholar and Google Books, there isn't a very good reason to know trivia, as it can be accessed at any moment. Why bother knowing when Colombus sailed the ocean blue when you can find out in less than 10 seconds? Especially when you can also find out anything else about him in as much time.

Note that I don't think the revolution has come yet; with these tools, we have the foundation of Augmented Reality. A world where information on anything is instantly accessible is not too far away. The only thing we are missing is portability. Soon, I think, computers will be small enough to be of negligible weight. Then they can be attached to glasses that serve as monitors, or even eye implants that project directly into the retina. At that time, Augmented Reality is possible.

Imagine wandering through a new city to see the sights. Instead of getting a map or asking a local, you set out with no special knowledge. When you look at a building, glowing letters appear in your vision, telling you anything you may be interested in. You decide you don't want to learn about apartments or restaurants today, so you set your computer to only prompt you only at notable attractions. When you get tired, you tell your computer to give you directions to your hotel, and a glowing thread of light leads you down the sidewalk into the hotel, and directly to your bed.

Imagine playing an invisible game of Tag, where the person who is 'it' has a glowing halo, visible only to the other players.

Imagine information on anything, at any time.

That's augmented reality.

Sounds cool to me!

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