This post is going to be a bit of a divergence from the History, but I wanted to discuss a little on the topic of the last week, augmented reality. I believe that the death of Google Glass did more damage than we think, and it seems that many historian AR projects are either really gimmicky, simple, or malfunctioning attempts at augmented reality. Having psoters that are essentially links to videos, do not deliver on the dream of AR. So here are 3 steps we need to hurdle in order to make AR for history and other fields really work.
1. We need a wearable revolution:
It seems that for the moment we are in an ugly situation for AR. The technology is either here, or close to here, but we can't seem to get people to buy into a pair of glasses. I honestly think that AR projects like hololens might be the way we can turn this around. We might not see people at first going around with AR glasses in the street, but people, especially in fields like design, could stand to gain with wearables that work while you're at home or in the office. Imagine the indoor laser tag, mini put, or other activities we could do without needing to take the AR out of the house.
The next step is we need to see if people will wear glasses they don't need as an extension of their phones. I imagine making glasses small enough to not look bulky will need to have the computing power outsourced. This is the same concept behind the Apple Watch. Apple got us all to buy tablets, I imagine they could release a wearable that is an extension of the iphone that would be the way we get these devices onto people's faces.
It seems that a lot of AR projects are reinventing the wheel with each iteration. They make stand alone apps, and I don't see that sticking. What we need is a, AR meta-system that other AR software plugs into like the operating system on a computer. We could have some standard features (like things to make sure no one walks into walls) and people can install the augments they want. Then we have a standardized platform historians can work with and collaborate with.
3. The Tech is not *Quite* there:
I think there was a bit of a hasty race to adopt this technology. As many AR projects have shown, they require powerful real-time image processing that a handheld device is not quite able to maintain. This is the least concerning as Moore's law and the recent surge in the realm of neural networks will make this a short wait. Even the self-driving car research will help with this.
That only means we need to think about how we use this new technology. What mores and norms we want to have about it, when socially we haven't even really worked out cell phones yet. It will be interesting to see if public places have a "no glasses" rule or if it would be considered rude to wear one at a party. We shall see.