I have been a technologist by profession since 1998 and a futurist for as long as I can remember. Of course no one pays me to study the future and make predictions about it, but I’ve always gladly preached my ideas to anyone who would listen about how technology will shape society and in turn, how society will shape technology. My first taste of futurism came from Star Trek (the original of course) which I watched with my father on Sunday nights. I have memories as early as age 5 of sitting with him in his armchair recliner and being fully immersed in this adventure of noble exploration. Roddenbury’s vision of warp drives, phaser weapons, replicators and teleportation captured my imagination and made a huge impression on me. In my mind, the diegesis of Star Trek represented not a fictional future, but a real future that mankind’s vector was inevitably headed toward. At some point I discovered Popular Mechanics magazine. I’m fairly certain that I was the only fourth grader asking for a subscription to that technology magazine for my birthday. When a new issue arrived I would quickly jump past the articles on building ultralights and calculators to the “It’s New Now” page which featured some breakthrough technology each month. By age 11 or 12 I had discovered the metallic inked pages of Omni Magazine which captured my imagination with pop-science and science fiction. Omni opened my mind through the writings of (real) futurists such as Freeman Dyson and Alvin Toffler and fiction writers such as William Gibson, Orson Scott Card, George R.R. Martin and William Burroughs. Wired magazine came into my consciousness when I picked up issue #1 in the studio of the graphic designer who was working for me at the time it debuted. He had bought it for the cutting edge design and typography but I was drawn to it as the obvious successor to Omni, re-tuned for the dawn of the microchip age. It blew me away with its blend of science, technology and cultural pulse-taking. I have been a subscriber ever since and still read it cover to cover each month. It continues to inspire my own visions of the future.
I am the kind of person who has a million ideas for businesses, apps and technologies but not the wherewithal, focus nor energy to make them happen. There are a number of business plans on my hard drive in various states of completion. Many of my ideas were made legitimate (in my mind at least) by the latter execution by others. Some examples include the remote control finder (early 90’s), advertising supported (free) directory assistance (late 90’s) and countless apps in the smart phone age. Of course on many occasions my ideas turn out to have already been attempted. App development technology has been made so accessible that anyone with a creative notion can pretty much render it and push it out to the world. One such already-ran idea I came up with turned out to be an augmented reality concept without me really knowing what AR was. I called it “Bubble Up” and drafted a full treatment of the app design and UX. It basically entailed using a smart phone’s GPS to identify where you are, the compass to determine which direction you are facing and the accelerometer to determine the angle of the camera’s gaze. It then retrieved data from a database about the businesses and sites around you and superimposed this information as “bubbles” upon the scene viewed on screen. Any business or entity could freely add bubbles about themselves or pay a premium for enhanced listings or promotions. My bubble was burst when I found Nokia City Lens. Wikipedia describes it as “…augmented reality (AR) software that gives dynamic information, through the phone’s camera display, about users’ surroundings such as shops, restaurants, and points of interest, shown as virtual signs overlaid on or above buildings.” Yep, that’s what I had in mind.
The discovery that not only did my idea already exist, but was part of a technological movement that had been in the works for years, sent me down a path of knowledge discovery that still continues 20 months later. At first I was keeping notes, then I was creating a taxonomy of Augmented Reality topics, then I was writing a white paper, then that white paper began to look more like a book, then I got really, really busy with my life and day job and my progress slowed, then I realized that the world of AR was changing much faster than I could document it. The book wasn’t going to happen. So now I have arrived at the notion of creating a blog. I’ve never really had one before because the topics I have expertise in are already so over-blogged that there are not many new or interesting things that I have to say that are not already being said by others. But AR is still so young and the landscape still so wide open that I feel there are a lot of ideas yet to be expressed in this space. My aim is to use this web log to share my newly gained knowledge and understanding of the AR landscape and to muse upon my notions of how it can and will be deployed in the near and not-so-near future. I hope that you will share your thoughts by leaving comments.