Web future: Social augmented reality

This blog post contains a few ideas about the future. I believe that social augmented reality will transform the way we navigate the web. In the early days, people will pay to wear augmented reality goggles. Subcultures, e.g. WWII reenactors will lead the way, recreating the Battle of Dunkirk, at Dunkirk etc. But that’s just the start.

Here’s a long sentence: Today I spotted a couple of things that got me thinking about the endless possibilities provoked by computer games leaving desk-bound PCs and being increasingly woven into mainstream-ish human group activity.

Update: Not goggles (Googgles?) or glasses, eventually our augmented realities will be delivered by contact lenses.

Groups of fans: Starcrafters unite

The first was a great article by Paul Miller about members of the Starcraft “eSports” subculture uniting, in person, in New York.

It talks about video games as spectator sport: “its StarCraft fan base has never really faded, particularly in South Korea, where there are two cable channels dedicated to video games, each of which runs its own professional StarCraft league.”

The article also refers to Starcraft’s complexity and drama, mentions low latency and the “Actions Per Minute (APM) that a high-level player performs with mouse and keyboard. It’s basically a post-human performance, with many professionals regularly hovering around 200 APM”.

Here are people in Canada reacting to a Starcraft computer game competition. Video:

At time of writing, Husky’s StarCraft commentary videos have received 248,673,458 views.

Cheap augmented reality devices

The second was a poster that I saw in a London shopping centre window for the AppBlaster AppToyz. For a moment I thought some clever company had managed to produce a mass market augmented reality game for £20… but no, the AppBlaster is being marketed as a device that extends your smartphone.

It’s “The world’s first interactive gun for gaming! This is a gun which houses the iPod / iPhone where the sights would be. Using the free app and the camera on your device, change your lounge, office or anywhere you are into a battle ground.”
More about the AppBlaster AppToyz. Video:

Combine groups of people and augmented reality. What will happen?

If people are comfortable interacting in public with computer games, and relatively cheap augmented reality devices are available, surely it’s only a matter of time that the two are combined in dynamic ways?
In the early days augmented reality glasses will be used for special events.

AppBlaster AppToyz

AppBlaster AppToyz

Perhaps…
The Sunday league football team wearing augmented reality glasses while playing a game. Their pitch is transformed through the glasses into a packed Wembley stadium, their fellow players transformed visually into footballing superstars?

Perhaps…

Groups of World War II reenacters in uniforms physically travelling to Dunkirk. Then fighting the Battle of Dunkirk, at Dunkirk. The scene transformed into bloody noisy war through the glasses and earphones?

Perhaps…

The group of friends meeting for drinks, wearing augmented reality glasses. Their surroundings transformed into the cafe from Friends, or a Sex in the City cocktail bar…?

Perhaps…

Business meetings. People around the table (wearing augmented reality glasses) passing around virtual prototypes of the product that their company is considering manufacturing.

Perhaps…

A massive charity marathon, where to collect their sponsorship money, the runners (wearing augmented reality glasses) have to collect / run through large virtual coins dotted along the track by their sponsors…?

If I can write this now, then a company must have already developed something similar. Please say hi, if so.

What’s next? From surfing the web… to mass consensual hallucination

Update: 24th November 2011.

Inspired by the augmented reality contact lense story (linked to above), here’s how I think we will be surfing the web in the future.

In a few years time we’ll be using augmented reality glasses at special social events. Subcultures, WWII reenactors, gamers etc will lead the way.
Augmented reality use on smartphones and tablets will grow, spurred on by retailers selling us products.

Surfing the web on augmented reality glasses will be fun, will continue to grow in popularity. It will project a computer screen at some distance in front of the eye, not unlike using laptop screens now.

As I tweeted in 2009, this will be the point when “every surface will be covered with the web”.

Things will begin to get interesting when:
a) Augmented reality contact lenses get high definition and usable.
b) They’re powerful enough to run 3D experiences.
c) Navigation of augmented reality contact lenses is controlled by the mind.
d) Children know no other world, except the one in which augmented reality contact lenses which can run 3D experiences and use mind control software are seen as normal.

When a, b, c and d are happening, minds and society will be profoundly affected by augmented reality.
While wearing the lenses we’ll be able to call up any information from the web and overlay it on the “real world”. With 3D lenses that we can control with our minds the web will become as real as “physical reality”. Young people will be able to dive into it and swim around, connecting with others while they do so. This may change the structure of their brains. It will change their horizons. They’ll be profoundly connected.

The manipulation of the 3D web, using contact lenses, will become a sought after skill, useful to secure a place in higher education (?). Therefore parents will fit their children with the web connected lenses at younger and younger ages, until a generation of children have always worn them.

Video: “Peer through the bionic contact lenses, complete with electronic circuits and lights from UW’s College of Engineering”.

By the way, advertisers will make full use of the 3d immersion. Campaigns like Mercedes’ Escape the Map would benefit a lot from increased immersion.

The web analytics of the future will be detailed… companies will be able to measure and log everything we see.

By this point the lenses will be obsolete (for many) and the web will be beamed directly into our minds, somehow.

Or as I tweeted, in January:

“Websites on screens are outdated. In future people will navigate the web directly in their heads. Head producers will be employed.”

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