Sunday, December 6, 2015

AR content control: Who gets to decide?

According to Wikipedia "Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality.[1] By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one.[2][3] Augmentation is conventionally in real-time and in semantic context with environmental elements, such as sports scores on TV during a match. With the help of advanced AR technology (e.g. adding computer vision and object recognition) the information about the surrounding real world of the user becomes interactive and digitally manipulable. Artificial information about the environment and its objects can be overlaid on the real world."

At some point in the near future (maybe 15 years). AR devices capable of full or near full immersion overlays will become much more "transparent" than the current, and very awkward, and bulky, prototypes such as Microsoft HoloLense. I can imagine these devices will, at some point, take the form of Sunglasses, Safety Glasses, or even Contact Lenses. At this point AR will become used more often and by more people than not and will effectively become "the new normal".

Children growing up in this new world of AR will take it completely for granted and consider it to be a normal part of everyday life. Many features that you see in popular video games today such as The Sims, will exist as an extension of our real world.

Imagine walking down the street and seeing little bubbles floating above people as you approach them. The bubble will probably contain basic contact information such as a business card, and may even contain an advertisement.

But, in such a world, who controls what information IS in that bubble? Will it be a service provided by google? Will it be contact information provided by the person themselves. Will YOU get to control what information is floating above someone else? IE: are you going to have the right to "tag" someone? How about the police? I think the answer will be "yes", all of those things will be happening all at once. The question is not "Who will have the ability to tag people and places?" but the question will become "What layers of augmented reality is the viewer currently choosing to view or subscribe to. This possibility opens up the entire AR layer space to a whole new industry of content syndication, publishing, subscription services, and of course... ads, lots and lots of ads.

In my mind, this question of who gets to decide where AR content overlays are presented, is going to be every bit as controversial as music downloads during the beginning of Napster. Will a person be allowed to overlay and publish pornography on the walls of a public space? What if it's a "private" channel that only the content creator can view? what if it is subscription based and you have to pay to see it? Or, what if you have to verify your age? Ok, how about that same content on the sidewalk leading up to a school? Will that even be legal? If not, how do you propose to control it?

The social, moral, ethical, and legal implications of these few questions alone will probably take years to sort out and I'm not sure the first answers are going to be the right ones.

Where does Freedom of Speech end and FCC censorship begin, when you are talking about an entirely new medium of transmission and interaction of the "speech" that is being presented?


Welcome to the future!

In this blog we will explore the exciting changes that are unfolding in the world of technology. We will examine various aspects of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and the changes that will happen in our day to day lives as a result of these up and coming technologies. I hope you enjoy following along as this blog develops and I welcome, and look forward to reading any comments that you may have on these topics.

Virtual Reality, and a bit later, Augmented Reality technologies are going to transform the way human interactions occur on a global scale not seen since the rise of the Internet in 1995. While these two areas are very much related, they have very different applications, limitations and implications when considering the inherent nature of each of these technologies.

VR VS. AR: Similarities & Differences

VR, by definition, attempts to replace reality itself, by immersing the user in a totally new environment. This is an exciting prospect especially for gamers and folks who wish to visit places they will never have the opportunity to ever actually go to. Although the VR experience will by definition, be more immersive than AR, the applications are more limited than that of AR. While the person may feel as if they have been "Teleported" to another place there is one major side effect. The person becomes almost completely unaware of their actual Real World surroundings. Add to this, the very real possibility of mobile VR technology with the introduction of Google Cardboard, Facebook's Gear VR (and others). I have said it several times. It is only a matter of time before someone literally and unknowingly steps out in front of a Bus while immersed in VR. So, if your going to do VR on the go, make sure you are going to stay indoors or go with a designated trip sitter.

AR, on the other hand, has a potential for a much broader range of applications where it can be leveraged. These applications range from near complete immersion, where only a few Real Life elements are present, to situations where the person is completely aware of their physical environment, with additional information present as an "overlay". Overlays or "AR Layers" can be as simple as a clock readout. or as complex as a complete backdrop that completely surrounds the user's immediate real world environment.

Regardless of the differences between these two approaches to virtualization and augmentation. Both areas have profound implications regarding the way humans will interact with each other and their environments. Although it appears that Virtual Reality will become the first of these technologies to hit the mainstream market, they are both equally profound in the way our landscape will be perceived in the very near future.

Please stay tuned for weekly updates to this blog as we explore various aspects of VR, AR, and You.