Guest post by: Chris Stair, Intern
This ‘new mindset’ really plays into some of the biggest trends going on in the tech world today. Elon Musk has recently brought up the interesting point that we don’t need a faster plane we need a faster train, one of the older forms of transportation, invented 200 years after the first submarine and 100 before the first airplane. It isn’t that we didn’t have the technology to make a mag-lev train that could go from NY to Beijing in 4 hours, it’s that we didn’t have the vision. Augmented reality is in the same boat. The players with the potential to make AR a force have been around for a while: Big Data, social media, wireless technology and a healthy dose of UX, unfortunately no one has really sat down and combined the elements in a usable way.
On top of all the technology that will go into making augmented reality reality, it will also need a scene. A place with the capability to create an infrastructure that can support a new species of interactive technology, the money to buy it, and some uses for it. I am of course talking about New York. With a few forward thinking restaurants and museums on board, NYC possesses the density to enable a person using AR to make the most of it, researching say, the history of Wall Street (hundreds of years before it ruined the world it was actually just a wall), or ordering a drink in a bar by interacting with an AR menu to get the background on a potential selection (IPA’s were invented so that the British could ship their booze all the way to India and it wouldn’t go bad, as a result IPA’s tend to have a higher alcohol and hops content).
One reason AR hasn’t become a larger force in our lives, even though there are projected to be 2.5 billlion AR applications downloaded annually by 2017, is the technology was in Silicon Valley which used to have all the tech geniuses in life but lacked the population density, in other words “the context” to make AR practical. But now NY is getting it’s own burgeoning tech scene. It has the history to be researched, the social media addicts to let us all know what’s hot and what’s not, the money to buy AR gear and a tangible need for AR infrastructure.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of a scene, I know in UX/IA we talk a lot about the holy trinity: user, content and context. In my earlier example the user would be the beer lover who is about to buy an IPA mainly because of the higher alcohol percentage, the content would be the virtual menu and the context would be the bar itself. Implementing AR requires connecting the user to their context through content, rather than providing the user with content to consume in a given context as usually happens on websites, at libraries or in school. As a side note in AR content becomes part of the context, making the holy trinity more of a dynamic duo, in turn making theorizing about the informational relationships difficult. But as I’ve been learning painstakingly with Lis: the end is rarely visible at the beginning and we won’t know what the next step in evolution will look like until we reach it. Andrea Resmini and a few other IA’s are theorizing on the role of AR in relation to the concept of placemaking; the Placemaking 101 page on Andrea’s site has a fairly comprehensive list of books on this topic if you’re interested in further reading.
The possibilities for what we can do with AR are largely undefined. If you were to take a page out of Elon Musk’s book you would look at some of the older technologies and start re-implementing them on the new platforms; native advertising could certainly evolve, situational coupons would be another logical step, businesses could advertise from high up on skyscrapers and likewise graffiti artists could put big pink elephants everywhere without creating a nuisance for the Department of Sanitation. The problem has nothing to do with the limitations of our technology, only with the boundaries of our mindsets. Unlike previous technologies this one will need to be developed user first, circuits later.
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