When I watch a movie on TV, I always have my laptop at hand. If things get slow or if I’ve seen the movie before, I surf to get details on facts (especially if it’s historical), writers, directors and actors. This sort of enhanced and enriched experience has taken off for many people who compulsively surf during conversations, shopping trips and vacations. Getting the details can be useful, fun and addictive.
This has been taken to a new level with augmented reality applications the turn smart phones into windows that show what is right in front of you, overlaid with data. The most intriguing of these do this in real-time, taking in the information from the camera and augmenting it with information from the Internet.
Taking things a step further, Parrot has created a game for an iPhone controlled toy helicopter that allows the window to show a fantasy battle. (No actual missiles are launched. With this game (and probably other augmented reality applications), we have begun to cross over into shared experiences. Rather than my getting personal updates, I now can bring data into conversations and events that include others, and this has intriguing implications:
- If the data is real-time discussion with an expert, a group can interact with a guide without the guide being physically present. There is also the opportunity for input from the crowd, providing a variety of perspectives and knowledge-pooling. At a concert, this might play out as a chat stream of facts and opinions. In the case of touring a new city, it provides real-time information (and even live video) of what is in buildings or just around the corner.
- Places can be remade. I imagine in might be fun to have people in a vacation spot (say, a theme park) attend as their avatar personas, even appearing as such to their fellow players and perhaps even remaking buildings as quest castles, etc.
- Similarly, people who reenact history could recreate themselves as figures from the past, both for fun and for education.
- Theaters with little budget could present plays with elaborate costumes and sets overlaid to show in smart phone window – with lower costs and the ability to make changes instantly. (In fact, a new sort of presentation might be created by allowing audience members to take over costumes and sets as the play progresses.)
The possibilities are endless, but I think the most important aspect is how this might enhance face-to-face experiences. Experts make the point that a huge part of communications comes to us via expression and body language. As data streams in via less intrusive forms and we all experience it simultaneously, our interpretation will be enhanced by seeing, in more than just comments, how those sharing the experience react.
In fact, I think this sharing of experiences is something that has been fading from our culture as the tools of communication become more distracting. For newer tools to turn this around, so that our interactions become as rich as when we laugh together at a good joke or weep together at a funeral, may help to make us connect more fully, and more humanely, with others.