Now then, now then, now then…..
There has been some talk of “Augmented Reality” from the upsurge of iPhone and Android apps that basically overlay a view of what your phone camera can see with information on what you’re looking at by taking in data from the in-built GPS, compass or (in a few cases) outlines of what the camera can see.
For once, I’m not being cynical, and I think this is a fantastic idea, though it has a lot of problems. I’ve seen clips of people moving around places with their iPhone camera showing what it sees but with little boxes constantly popping up next to things, most of which end up being simply Wikipedia entries which is great if you’re somewhere new, on holiday or so on, but is generally kinda useless.
I’m going to be moving to a new city in a month’s time, and I just returned from a week in Malta. So THERE would be the times that this would be useful, if you’re sightseeing purposely or if you’re somewhere new or unusual and you want to adapt and learn about where you are as quickly as possible. But I would find it utterly useless walking around Horsham, because nearly 13 years of living in this one town has taught me everything about it’s history I could possibly want to know (for example, Romantic poet Percy Shelley was born in Horsham, hence we have the Rising Universe fountain better known, at least to locals, as Shelley Fountain). Another issue is, who controls the information, and how will it know what information I would find useful. If I wave an iPhone at a restaurant, I’d like to see some brief reviews, maybe a menu or prices, but I don’t need to know when the building was built. There could be a market for an app where you can choose what type of information is shown, like one that shows the historical relevance of buildings in literature, like walk past a building and see that Oscar Wilde lived there.
It strikes me, also, that there’s a lot of people who already see the world digitally instead of physically. When I saw Lady Gaga a few weeks ago I looked around and saw that practically everyone was watching avidly through a little screen on the back of their cameras and worrying about filming it for posterity, all the while missing the experience itself. Generally, I don’t carry a proper digital camera on me and seldom whip my phone out to record or photograph anything as I prefer taking it in properly and absorbing the memory. While I see that augmented reality is different, it doesn’t escape the masses seeing the world through (annotated) glass, for which they might as well stay at home and see a city on TV rather than stumbling around staring at screens and bumping into everyone.
The obvious next step for this is implementing it in contact lenses, make it ultra sci-fi. There are already glasses that do this sort of thing, but we all know how I feel about wearing stupid glasses and contact lenses would be the ultimate way of getting all this information straight into your brain-face without looking like a total moron. But, still, this information popping up automatically and (to a degree) uncontrollably, obscuring vision and being useless info 80% of the time means this whole thing has a long way to go.
What I think would be the best method of doing it as it stands on the smartphones, is to have an app where information only pops up for a building that perhaps you tap on the screen, as well as the filter settings I mentioned earlier, or better yet just take a picture of the building would help. Another drawback of this is that at the moment it’s limited to skylines and buildings, you can’t take the selfsame app into a museum and get information on the exhibits (you know, the information primitively written on little bits of card underneath the object itself, savages!). While a lot of museums have their own method of getting information digitally while you walk around the place, there’s no unified universe app, which I would LOVE to see.
When something like this comes out that would be great in three years, I wish I had a time machine to go forward and see it, but then I’d have to wait for them to develop and perfect time travel, but then I would be thirty years (at least) later on and the event would’ve been 27 years ago, unless I build a time machine, travel back to present day and give myself the time machine, then travel forwards to the event I want to see………..but then I wouldn’t build the time machine because I’ve already got one……………..fuck I’m confused.
Oh and I remembered something else, I was thinking about augmented reality while being my usual trendy man-about-town sort of self………while walking, ironically, about town. I tried to remember the author to a book I wanted but couldn’t, thinking if I had my own iPhone I could easily check and saunter over to the bookshop. But then I remembered that O2 have, and hopefully always will, have demo iPhones available for use, so I just went into there, grabbed an iPhone and went straight to Wikipedia. It’s much cheaper than actually buying an iPhone + contract.