Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Nerd Word of the Week: Augmented reality

Augmented reality (n.) - A hybrid of conventional and virtual reality, where computer-generated artifacts and information are overlaid upon a direct view of the real world. Sometimes referred to by the abbreviation AR. Applications can range from the simple, such as the Heads-Up Display in the F-16 fighter which overlays a computer-generated targeting crosshairs directly into the pilot's field of view, to extraordinarily complex, wherein complete virtual persons, buildings, and events are superimposed over, and interact within, a viewer's perception of the real world. In Charles Stross's novel Halting State, the Scottish police are outfitted with AR lenses that superimpose distress call data, criminal records, and jurisdictional boundaries into their field of view so as to assess and repsond to emergencies more efficiently. In the same novel, everyday citizens engage in complex alternate reality games (sometimes also called AR games or ARGs, just to confuse the issue) wherein augmented reality technology is used to "fictionalize" the environment, allowing players to pretend to be spies, zombie hunters, or fantasy heroes during the course of their everyday lives. Rainbow's End by Vernor Vinge and Spook Country by William Gibson also depict worlds heavily influenced by AR tech, and the tabletop roleplaying game Shadowrun was years ahead of its time in depicting the implications of a world where augmented reality tech is ubiquitous and unregulated (and also ruled by mythical dragons).

I bring it up because: University of Washington researcher Babak Parviz made recent headlines with his conceptual paper on how to build self-contained, fully functional AR contact lenses. Rather than the bulky AR/exocortex goggles found in Charles Stross's Accelerando or the direct Brainpal neural implants suggested in John Scalzi's Old Man's War, these AR lenses would hit the practical application sweet spot for possible AR use in the real world. And the idea that we already have the technical know-how to build them is rightfully stirring up the nerd-o-sphere. I for one welcome our new AR-imposed virtual overlords.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

1 comment:

  1. Good one this week ... and oddly enough, I just finished Accelerando, read Old Man's War at your suggestion about a year ago, and am in the midst of a first reading of Vinge's Rainbow's End.

    I've also played Shadowrun a few times and of course have worked through the whole Gibson canon, but that pretty much goes without saying. At any rate, get out of my head - or at least stop spying on my bookshelf!