Augmented reality vs. social software

Ross Mayfield blogged a good article in Popular Science by Steve Ditlea that helps illustrate the points that I was trying to make the other day about augmented reality.
Ditlea describes AR technology as providing additional information to the visual field, enabling soldiers, doctors, and techicians to work more effectively.

With AR, you’ll simply slip on a tiny visor and guided repair instructions will appear next to each under-the-hood part that you gaze at: “Now that you’ve disconnected the radiator hose, move it to one side and unscrew the carburetor cap.”

Eventually, Ditlea predicts, this will be available to the rest of us:

“And when AR headgear does shrink down to the size of common glasses, it could be a must for up-and-coming managers, to avoid career or social gaffes at business meetings and cocktail parties. Everyone will be packing extra data in their spectacles. Each time you look at someone across a conference table or a crowded room, information about who they are and what their background is could appear before your eyes.”

All of these examples are factual data provided to the individual. The second example is the image that I was talking about earlier — a person getting secret information that gives them advantages over the other people in the room.
This is very different from the story Greg Elin told about Aaron Swartz and Cory Doctorow hanging out on a couch at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, chatting with each other in person while also sending aside comments, checking references, and forwarding code snippets on the computers in their hands.
Aaron and Cory are getting an overlay of internet data, and using this as a source and a channel for their conversation.
So this is what I meant. In popular science, augmented reality is data informing and isolating the individual. In life as we’re living it, augmented reality is data informing the connections between people, and the cyborg — the part-human, part-machine entity — is a conversation.
(We’ll leave Prof. Mann out of it for now, since Abe Books cancelled my order for his book, so it’s over to Half.com. )

2 thoughts on “Augmented reality vs. social software”

  1. Adina —
    It took me forever to follow up on this. I’d say that AR is a kind of tool, like a microscope or telescope, that is not intrinsically designed to be social, but is useful in its own way; therefore, I wouldn’t say that it “isolates.” Does a hammer isolate?
    Definitely get a copy of Steve Mann’s book! Email him if you have to. He really does some deep thinking about implications of wearables.

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