Augmented Reality

If you start thinking of augmented reality, what will come to your mind first? Well I don't know about you, but if you ask me, there is no doubt, it's the car keys. Yes, car keys. Let me explain. This is one of those weird situation when you're approaching your car from the distance and vainly trying to unlock the door with your fancy wireless keys. You are simply too far away from the car. But if you put the keys next to your head and try again your brain will do the magic. It will augment the poor thing and considerably enhance the wireless range and the car will no longer be locked. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself. I don't remember exactly where I saw this, probably in those documentary shows like "Brainiac" or "Top Gear" but it works every time. Human body is a large conductor when it comes to radio waves and it easily alters the field when it's close to transmitter or receiver, but still this is very nice example of how your body can help you with technology in a way we don't usually apply it to.

So now we know how our brain can help us by augmenting technology, but can we do the other way around? Can we use technology to implant more sensory data or provide useful information to our brains in real time? With new technologies the answer is definitely yes.

Augmented reality with contact lenses

Augmented reality in current stage of development is more or less just various software applications enhancing the smart phone camera by adding layers of information depending on the image and the data acquired by phone's sensors, mostly GPS receiver, compass and gyroscope responsible for providing exact location of your gadget and therefore you. But this is just a beginning of an era. The real goal is to reinvent personal computers, but this time with literal meaning of the word 'personal'. To truly augment the reality we need to wear network of micro computers so they would be with us everywhere we go, even during the night while we sleep. Half a century ago when computers started to exist, the technology behind required big rooms with acclimatized conditions for everything to work properly. Today miniaturization of the hardware reached the stage where super small smart phone is equal in processing power as typical desktop home computer and it is just a matter of time when fashion industry will start deploying them as part of every day clothing along with systems of automatically recharging batteries, various types of displaying the data and real time interactions with other "units" wearing by others nearby you or networked on the net.

I am sure that further miniaturization will be able to provide real skin implants and along with nanotechnology monitoring of various health properties of ours. It would be even possible to carry small dosages of various drugs within dormant nano-robots ready to act as soon as some medical condition arise. The cure could be deployed directly to infected area instead of bloodstream. But we are not there yet and even when we get there implanting computers inside our bodies for purposes other than medical should be taken with care. It's all about privacy and control. If for some reason or if some event is requiring, it should be able to turn it off at any time. Like mobile phones in theaters or restrictions of electronics gadgets in planes.

Augmented reality, practical application

While wearing augmented computerizing glasses on your nose, quadruple CPU powered mainframe in your belt, one little augmented hairclip in your hear along with fully augmented blue jeans could be fun and even educational in various occasions I am also worried about possible health issues caused by possible malfunctions or simple long term usage. Let's face it, even a completely harmless headphone will give you bad reddish ear effect after two hours of phone conversation. I would prefer device to be turned on only when it is really needed. I remember one evening, last summer, I was sitting on the balcony and after one short glimpse by the corner of my left eye I saw a very bright star on the west, just above the nearby building. It was couple of hours after sunset so I thought it was Venus and just in a moment when I opened my mouth in order to call Viktor to show him how bright Venus is this evening it suddenly became bigger and brighter. Moment after I realized it was moving directly toward my location and shortly after it was directly above our house. Now I know it was the ISS flying over that night with magnitude of -3,5 or so, but if I had a pair of augmented glasses at the time they would probably save me from thinking of various UFO theories or some military malfunction planes crashing above the maintains and other even more stupid conspiracy theories. The only thing I needed was a NASA augmented layer in my glasses of all satellite orbits overriding my laziness to stand up, go inside, get the laptop, turn it on, googling for orbiting data and satisfying my curiosity.

Augmented reality, star charts

However, augmenting reality is much more than just fun and education. It will have so many practical applications that we are simply not aware of all of them from this point of continuum of time and space. If you check the above image of car mechanic examine your car nothing will stop you wearing the same technology that would confirm the exact cause of your car malfunction. Also first serious "Babel fish", the small fish swimming in your auditory canal and translating all foreign languages will not be inserted in your ear at all. I guess Sci-fi writers failed big time on this, instead it will be embedded into your contact lenses or augmented glasses and we would be able to read messages from the translation layer. We can go that far in future applications that even a moderate plane traveler would be able to land the plane with a pair of glasses with all the procedure written in front of every single instrument in the cockpit.

Until all of this come to our play box, enjoy good movies and shows presenting augmented reality in great fashion, like in recently started "Continuum" by They created really cool augmented reality gadgets. Also, nice plausible vision of the future regarding corporations and democracy.

The main concern of the future full of gadgets and complicated devices made for everyday use is definitely how to keep all of our humanity and avoid living in one giant matrix game. That will be the real challenge.

Image ref:
Continental’s portfolio of diagnostic tools

Showcase's Continuum

'Car Keys' phenomenon by Mr Bean

Augmented Reality - Wikipedia

Google Sky Map & Escapist Games Star Chart