There's another dimension present, everywhere we go, that a growing number of technologists are working to uncover. These people aren't talking about theoretical physics or a magical world of fairies and gnomes - they're talking about information that could offer more context to traditionally physical lived experience. Augmented Reality (AR) is the phrase being used and this practice of making layers of data available on top of real world experiences could be a big one soon.
Improvements in geolocation, bandwidth, mobile devices and APIs are the foundation of this feeling that a useful Augmented Reality may be more realistic today than ever before.
AR isn't new, but it's been pretty hokey so far. Now there's a movement to make it really worth doing. It's still such a fanciful prospect that we decided to publish our wish list for Augmented Reality apps we hope someone builds. We also posted some of the most interesting recent AR videos from around the web. Check it all out and share your thoughts.
The most common dreams for AR are probably concerning historical and other data about locations. Dutch software firm SPRXmobile will soon release an Android mobile app called Layar that will display real estate and restaurant information on top of the view through your phone's camera as you pan around a city. That's an exciting platform and one that many people are hoping will go global and be available on other phones soon.
We would love to be able stand at an intersection and learn about the past and present owners of the buildings around us and about news events that have occurred within sight (Outside.in's iPhone app does this, but has performance issues and is limited in scope). ReadWriteWeb writer Sarah Perez says she'd like to visit the location of a historic military battle and view a re-enactment of the battle on some device, not just read a posted placard about the place's history. Nokia's Ian Kennedy told us he fantasizes about being able to look at a building and stream crowd-sourced audio commentary on the history of the place.
How about an iPhone app that pulls from census and Data.gov APIs - say the neighborhood you're thinking of renting a house in made most of its political donations to the Republican Party and has had 3 major fines assessed for toxic spills in the last year.
Greg Smith points to Yanko Design's theoretical Third Eye, an electronic monocle that can be turned between "tourist" and "consumer" filters for information placed on top of the places it is pointed at.
How did this man make friends in the first place?
Above: Tonchidot's mysterious product hasn't been heard from again since appearing at the TechCrunch 50 conference and some suspect it was never real. Reports of a large established Japanese mobile company developing the same kind of application surfaced just this afternoon on Asiajin, one of the leading English-language tech blogs about Japan.
Find My Keys or Car
How about an app that lets you capture and remember the location of your keys, car, or anything else you might have trouble finding later? Konstantin Gonikman says he'd like a whole Augmented Reality catalog of everything in his house for easy retrieval.
Face Recognition and People Search
Several people we talked to wanted some kind of people info made available for situations like seeing someone but not remembering who they are! Why limit it to people you already know, though? Those tiny conference name tags could be a thing of the past. How about being able to bring up all a persons' public social media profile links just by looking at them through your mobile phone's camera? That would be great.
The person next to you...is a zombie.
Control-F For Offline Print
If you work online a lot, you may have already found yourself subconsciously trying to hit "control-F" when reading the newspaper to try and find words on the page. It can be frustrating to have to rely on antiquated if charming technologies like the index in a book. I would gladly pay a small extra fee for every book I buy in order to have access to full text search of that book on my phone.
We don't know what exactly is going on here, but it looks cool.
What About You?
What layers of information or user experiences would you like to see come out of the Augmented Reality world? Just watch out you don't ask for what Sean Canton said he wanted out of AR today: "I'd like some rose colored glasses that make everything seem ok."
Awesome Geordi La Forge spray painted stencil at the top: "Chief Engineer" CC from Flickr user striatic.