by Truus Dokter in

Last Friday the 4th of December almost 100 people gathered in V2 (Institute for the Unstable media http://www.v2.nl/ ) in Rotterdam to discuss Augmented Reality AR http://www.v2.nl/events/ar-ecosystem an event organized by Kwela Hermanns and Carl Kerchmar http://portaltoyourdreamsblog.blogspot.com/

Developers, academics, artists, users and the industry first listened to presentations from Claire Boonstra (co-founder Layar, Amsterdam http://layar.com/ ), Christina Rittchen (director Mobilizy/Wikitude, Salzburg http://www.wikitude.org/ ), Willi Schroll (Owner Strategic Labs, Berlin http://strategiclabs.de/ ) and myself Truus Dokter (trend forecaster http://www.secondsight.nl/person/5141/nl , http://freshviews-itfits.blogspot.com/

After the presentations the audience discussed in different groups about the feasibility in general, commercial possibilities and long term existential implications of AR.

The development of Augmented Reality today, can be compared with the situation of the early nineties when we tried to portray the future of the internet. While the World Wide Web created a platform for the “real” world to enter the virtual one, AR does the opposite: by means of devices such as mobile phones, special goggles or even a car’s front window, the invisible can be made visible. The idea behind the technology is very simple: a mobile device with camera and compass plus the GPS coordinates from yourself and the “target” you want to be informed about. AR uses a layer program that translates the information about the objective, the device is aimed at. In the promotional film from Layar interested parties can inform themselves on price, ownership and year of construction of any given property: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b64_16K2e08 .

There are many other possibilities: re-staging the past (the roar of the lions in the Colosseum), envisioning the future (rendering a building that still needs to be built) or a guided tour with the Beatles present on Abbey Road.

The approach of layers is easy to understand, however the concept of automatic triggering really brings you into a new world: through RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) you can be recognized when you enter a certain area, for instance an artwork or a game, automatically you are part of the “bubble” you are entering. You can turn of the RFID recognition – or program it only for certain occasions – but what will happen if we can be recognized by our smell, our personal energy levels, even by aura recognition? There are still a lot of questions to be answered. However there is no doubt about it that AR is not only a hype! It will soon be an integral part of our lives: for architects and city developers, in communication and marketing, in the medical world or just for our convenience and fun. The issue of security and the fact that Big Brother get’s closer by the minute, will surely need some of our attention. Fact is that mankind has never been able to stop progress and with this development it won’t be any different. Yes..., we will have to guard our privacy as we have to do now and had to do in the past. Problems are there to be solved!

In this new millenium the twentieth century attitude of control and automation has to be left behind. A world without borders requests an open attitude - cleared from old sore – that embraces the unknown called the future. Where Google concentrates on automation, modern crowdsourcing brings freedom, creativity and limitless possibilities.

One of the interesting parts of this conference was to try to inspire the audience not only to think about the technology and the possibilities of AR, but also to welcome it into the perception of what life will be about in the near future.

In due time there won’t be a difference between real and virtual worlds. It is a challenge to start living and carring out the beautiful marriage between reality and virtuality, maybe even invent a new name for todays ubiquitous – or as Willi Schroll claims cybiquitous – world.