Will augmented reality be a triumph of information delivery, or a metaphorical millstone around our necks?
In my previous blog on this topic, we considered some of the delivery mechanisms that might be used to present us with augmented reality information. The next question, of course, is what sort of augmented reality information do we expect and/or want to be delivered?
The impression I have after talking to a number of people is that they expect augmented reality data to be reasonably benign. They also expect it to be a "pull" type model in which they will have the ability to decide just how much information comes their way. The sort of thing a lot of people think of when you say "augmented reality" is looking at the world through their smartphone in a supermarket and being alerted to an interesting sale, for example.
Another popular theme is to be able to look through one's handheld device at something like a restaurant, and to then be provided with information like today's menu, dining hours, customer reviews, and so forth.
For myself, I'm looking a bit farther out. Take navigation, for example. Today's GPS systems that you get in cars are, in many ways, incredible, but it's still a pain having to look down at a small screen, and the spoken directions are often not as clear as one might like ("Stay right and then turn left"). Even "Turn right in 250 yards" may not be optimum if you can see multiple right turns in close proximity to each other.
There's also the fact that a lot of graphical presentations try too hard and can overwhelm the user with too much information. On the other hand, a simple, well-conceived graphic truly can be worth 1,000 words.
Now, there are some very interesting heads-up-display technologies around, but I'm thinking beyond them. I'm not sure what delivery mechanisms will ultimately become available to us (from Google Glass to fully immersive Oculus Rift-type headsets to active contact lenses and beyond). Whatever the delivery mechanism turns out to be, I am envisaging something that we don’t have to hold in our hands, that can overlay graphical data anywhere in our visual field (we'll leave things like audio, tactile, and olfactory versions of augmented reality as topics for another day), and that is always-on (we'll return to this last point in a while).
The really interesting thing to me is the sort of augmented reality information that might be made available to us. The following are a few ideas off the top of my head -- I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on these, along with other ideas you have of your own.
Let's start with a simple one. Suppose you are in a foreign country and you look at an indecipherable sign. Suppose your augmented reality system is aware of the languages you know and don’t know, and automatically performs the translation and superimposes it over the original. Wouldn’t that be cool?
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