Recently, I've been pondering the future of augmented reality (AR). I really believe this technology is racing toward us faster than most people think.
Just today, for example, my chum Jay Dowling sent me a link to something called iOnRoad, which turns your smartphone into a personal driving assistant that can tell you what you are doing wrong. That will be handy for those times when my wife can't be there to perform this task for me.
This comes as an app that you can download to your iPhone or Android phone. Using the phone's camera, augmented by machine vision algorithms, the iOnRoad app provides a range of personal driving assistance functions, including augmented driving, collision warning, and black box-like video recording.
As per my previous columns, suppose this sort of AR capability -- showing the time gap between you and the car in front -- didn't require a smartphone or a heads-up display on the windscreen. Suppose it were projected directly on to one's retina?
I don't know about you, but I think that having a wealth of AR data available at one's fingertips (or on one's eyeballs) could be an incredible experience. It seems like the sort of thing that you can't imagine when you haven't got it, and that you can't imagine living without once you have it.
When I started writing my first book in 1992, I spent just about every evening and weekend for a year at my local library using the hard-copy Encyclopedia Britannica as my main reference source to check facts like the year George Boole invented Boolean algebra and when he was born and died. This was before the first popular web browser, Mosaic, appeared on the scene and before the vast majority of folks had heard the term "Internet."
Today, we all have unbelievable amounts of information available at our fingertips. While watching House Hunters with my wife, for example, I will use Google Earth on my iPad to get additional information about where our hopeful house hunters are hunting. I would guess that no more than 10 minutes typically passes -- at work or at home -- without my consulting the Internet about something or other. Way back in 1887, in his autobiographical Souvenirs d'Enfance et de Jeunesse, Ernest Renan (1823-1892) famously noted: "The simplest schoolboy is now familiar with facts for which Archimedes would have sacrificed his life." Goodness only knows what Ernest would have said about the information available to us today.
And I think we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I don't think most of us can conceive of the way things will be in the not-so-distant future.
I do have a question. What happens if we get used to relying on all this stuff, and a disaster like a mega-computer virus brings down all our systems? What will we do if the data stops flowing?
— Max Maxfield, Editor of All Things Fun & Interesting