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Augmented reality – will wearable computing help it take off in a big way?

Sir Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web thinks that there is a third iteration of the web emerging: (web 3.0?!) big data, wearable computing, the internet of things, and 3D printing are all a part of the wave of emerging technologies that once again will disrupt where we’re at now and make a step change in our world (think of the impact on our lives of the social two-way technologies of web 2.0).

The new wearable computing screens, such as Google Glass, may well help the established technology of augmented reality (or AR) take off. Although currently limited to about 1000 sets of prototype spectacle-like head mounted sets, they’re likely to go on mass sale next year. I for one will be wanting a pair of smart glasses! The official trailer for Glass has so far been viewed over 20m times, so I guess I’m not alone!

It’s easy to see from the trailer how augmented reality will enhance our lives. Admittedly, I don’t ice sculpt or trapeze as much as the people in the ad, so having extra functionality around those activities isn’t of that much interest. But I could receive live directions, take and receive photos and video, have real-time information overlaid on things I’m looking at, chat, translate foreign languages – all instantaneously and effortlessly – this could get AR into the hands of everyone.

Already, the military and medical professions use head mounted sets that are AR capable to receive more and better information about what they are seeing and doing.

Of course, there are worries about how ever more intimate and intrusive the digital world becomes, and about how much we’re offloading onto the internet, and pulling from it – if I can pull a piece of information into my line of sight when I need it, why bother conscientiously remembering it? Will I become too compulsively dependent on being connected? What about if the data I was seeing was hacked? Would my smart glasses be being used to collect data for e.g. Google?

Simultaneously, its easy to see that removing from your person the interface of the device that you must carry round to access, record and compute data, and making it a part of you – through a wearable accessory – is extremely compelling (even more compelling if that accessory is invisible, such as a contact lens). A transparent heads-up display that helps you engage MORE with the world around you, rather than sucking you away from reality via a screen on a device.

Although I already chunter to myself, Glass is operated and navigated by spoken commands, and so out in public, we’re going to have to get used to people verbally instructing their wearable devices. There are other social issues too, such as how to deal with the darker side of the web such as porn, privacy infringements, and intrusive advertising still needing to be cleared up too.

To learn more about augmented reality, why not take AmbITion’s Augmented Reality Learning Journey.