Augmented Reality (aka AR), looks increasingly set to play a major role in shaping the future of mobile computing, commerce, education and advertising. It isn’t far wrong to think of this as “electronic data mist” laid over mundane physical reality, but my main concern, as ever, is what happens when Intellectual Property Rights get thrown into the mix?
Specifically, who has the right to display what content over which physical area? Will it get to a point of digital saturation, i.e. the prospect of infinite virtual content over finite physical space? Also, how do you filter out the digital noise? I’m sure each of these questions presents immense opportunities for some digital entrepreneurs to make a killing over the next few years, i.e. if they’re not already doing so.
More to the point, I saw some fledgling offerings, precursors to a future AR industry that promises a wealth of content and applications, at last month’s BCS event on AR which featured two excellent speakers (a UCL professor, and the prominent blogger/founder of augmentedplanet.com) on the topic. Suffice it to say that they presented a feast of possibilities and opportunities for any far-sighted entrepreneur or venture capitalist to grab a stake in this potentially explosive space.
However, as with most things concerned with digital content versus physical reality, there is still a lack of clarity on governance, or rules-of-engagement, for when “digital meets physical” (sic). In light of the numerous battles fought by the music, film and publishing industries over digital content misuse or piracy, it is clear that the opportunities presented by emergent capabilities like AR will also bring its own unique challenges e.g.: privacy, limitations-in-technology, and the prospect of falling down an open manhole, or bumping into a lamp-post as your reality becomes increasingly over-augmented (for more info, you can read this excellent post about “the case against Augmented Reality”)
In spite of the above, the prospect of augmented reality applications becoming more common-place and making a real impact in the fields of medicine, education and commerce is indeed very exciting. I sincerely hope that AR will grow and flourish, overcoming the challenges that face it, in order to become an indispensible tool for this and future generations.