Augmented reality will become very interesting when the barriers to creating custom objects, animations, apps and experiences is drastically lowered. Similar to Flash or the App store, AR becomes very interesting when these experiences become very personal or shared between friends.
What has to change?
- Tools to create AR experiences such as notifications, real-time data feeds, location-context, alerts and images need to be created and easily accessible.
- Current tools (Layar, raw code, existing data) require large learning curves, knowledge of programming, and, at best, data parsing skills.
How do we know when we have it?
- Once a platform exists or a program that allows for many people to create AR experiences happens, we’ll have a massive influx of horrible apps and bad designs. We’ll also have a number of unique experiences and programs that only work on AR, or take advantage of the unique aspects and shape of the AR experience. (Heads up display, machine vision, overlays, notifications, context, ect.) Some of them will be silly, others serious. But mostly silly. A lot of entertainment. Most will be short term and kitchy, but will prove a point. There will be some art involved.
- Think of the revolution in desktop publishing. All of the sudden, mere mortals could create whatever they wanted and put it on paper. Later on this resulted in tons of horrible WordArt signs, but it also created an entire industry around Adobe Systems.
- Flash, while considered tacky, gave rise to tons of animations, experiments in physics, strange websites and art experiments, and a whole new way of experiencing the web. Now Flash is mainly used for ads, but in the early days entire websites were devoted to fantastic animations made by younger kids. JoeCartoon, Homestarrunner. Charlie the Unicorn and others have made the leap to YouTube now, where they live on as humorous relics from the era. HTML 5 is only minimally accessible in this sense.
- The first apps for iPhone were things like the iFart app, condensing reality into a new form and making it humorous. iFart took unique advantage of iPhone’s ability to play sounds and be mobile. If AR as a platform ends up being reasonable to use, we’ll see tech like this show up first. From virtual “kick me” notes for your friends/enemies’ backs, to adblocking / ads into art experiments, we’ll see a whole millenary of creations from the creative world. And there will be magazines/online sites/blogs devoted to showcasing these new apps and their creators. And conferences. And rockstars. And, as Bruce Sterling said in his “Dawn of the AR Industry” speech at Layar headquarters, there will be people who are defined as AR people by how they look.
- When you can share with limited groups or public, and share with others, and subscribe to these experiences, it will be like subscribing to realities. I can imagine filters for reality, or themes, or virtual catalogs where you can be checking out furniture mapped onto your room before you buy it.
[Image: DIY VR Goggles. Image: Andrew Lim/Recombu. From Popsci.]