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?

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