Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. (Wikipedia)
There is a lot of buzz on the Internet this week about something called Project Glass and the video that a group of Google engineers/designers produced to show their vision of augmented reality in the future. Much of the initial buzz has been positive in the "Oh, that's cool!" variety. But as a card-carrying technology curmudgeon, I am reminded of the catch phrase: "Not so fast, my friend!"
I have watched the Project Glass video several times now (embedded below) and I can find absolutely no compelling reason that reality augmenting glasses would be necessary in the daily activities of the test subject in the video. Everything he did with the glasses could be accomplished with a smartphone and in most cases accomplished more efficiently. Having weather superimposed on your view out the window doesn't really make your life better - it is just more visual noise to filter out.
And do we really need to have our mobile devices tell us where the music section is in a bookstore we are already standing in? In the future, will signs inside bookstores be merely a nostalgic memory?
I know this is may be an old man way of thinking, but I don't want my glasses checking in with the entire Internet everywhere I go, and I don't want Google tracking me everywhere just so they can tell me the subway is not running - I will find out on my own soon enough anyway.
And if I want to share a romantic sunset with that special person in my life, I sure as heck want that special person to be physically with me at the location of said sunset. Forgive me for being old-fashioned, but when it comes to romantic interludes, I think the participants should be sharing the same general space, whenever possible.
So, why am I wrong?
Parody videos mocking the Project Glass idealistic version of a future featuring augmented reality are already popping up and I suspect there will be plenty more to come. These parodies poke fun at the utopian vision of augmenting glasses by highlighting some of the foreseeable problems such a device could create. But I'd like to delve a little deeper.
I think augmented reality is a natural extension of the mobile and connected world we are creating for ourselves. I even think there will be some genuine productive uses for the technology. But I find it difficult to accept a civilization where everyone walks around with a separate "reality" constantly superimposed on the "real" world seen by their "real" eyes.
The whole concept sounds like a terrific recipe for creating more and more annoying rude people talking to themselves. You know the people I mean. They occupy our world while living in their own separate world, oblivious to the social damage they leave in their wake. Augmented reality glasses are just a more perfect way for them to avoid substantive interaction with you and me.
Do you see things differently than I do? What benefits to you envision in your augmented reality world? Is an augmented reality romance really desirable? What specific applications can you see benefitting from augmented reality?
Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.