November 28, 2020

Augmented Reality

Slick, touch-responsive, elucidative glares have long been a feature of science-fiction. The suave, dashing spy strides down a bus New York street and pauses before a man with an impassive, phlegmatic expression. Cut to the hero’s glares: a blinker appears on the top-left corner for a few seconds, after which a list drops down the screen. The suspect’ stats – vital and otherwise – have just been sourced ‘from the database’.

In a few years – heck, now, probably – these glares will be reality. Augmented reality (AR), actually. That’s the technology these glares use. Augmented reality superimposes graphics, audio and other sense enhancements from computer screens onto real time environments. What is most impressive about this, is that AR’s information is given according to subjective needs. (If you want eco-friendly bags, that’s what your AR-instrument will point you towards, in the mall.) While Pranav Mistry’s Sixth Sense technology is the most popular and promising aspect of AR today, there are also gaming, wikitude and numerous other possibilities.

This will take convenience to a new level – Look at a lake and know if it’s too deep, cold or toxic to swim in. Calorie-count will appear as soon as you look at food. Military operations will be aided greatly by AR – blueprints, night vision, detection of weaponry – all at the touch of a screen. Surgeons will have an objective, unimpeded view of the area of surgery, with constant indicators on a single screen. Not to mention that looking at a person brings up all their information on the internet.

Which begs the question: do I *want* a stranger to see the details of my Facebook and Twitter pages? Will I have the same attitudes to the guilty culinary delights if I start using AR calorie-counts? (I know I can stop using AR if it makes me guilty, but will I ever eat Tiramisu again?). Yeah, I want the Indian Army to know the enemy’s actions like it knows cricket scores, but do I want the enemy to know the same about India? Is it really a good idea to be peering at a virtual screen every few seconds?

When AR does make an appearance in the lives of the masses, it will be extensively powerful and correspondingly dangerous. However, like all other technological progress today, it will march on regardless. Preventing a virtual Hiroshima-Nagasaki is up to the users. The choice is yours are you willing to be part of the revolution as a user or as a creator?