Home Cartoon: Annotating the World

Cartoon: Annotating the World

This past week’s buzz phrase (so much so that it was a trending topic on Twitter) was “augmented reality” (or AR), which is what you get when you mix your perception of the world around you with computer-generated information. While still in its infancy, the technology holds the promise that you might one day be able to point your iPhone’s camera at a Starbucks and see a little notice pop up that says, “There’s a Starbucks here.”

Okay, there’s more to it than that. The “power of the crowd” (cue thunderbolts) could turn AR into something genuinely transformative. Already, apps promise to show us Flickr photos and other social media related to places we’re looking at. It shouldn’t be long before nearly every square inch of our cities is thoroughly annotated: “Great scones, Wi-Fi only so-so.” “Threw up here after a bar crawl.” “Lost my virginity on the 14th floor.”

There will be an awkward interim phase when we’ll have to get used to the word “First!” popping up every time we look at something. But that should pass, and soon we’ll reach the new exciting future long dreamed of by our ancestors, when we’ll finally be able to discover the name of any piece of Ikea furniture just by staring at it. (“Spugnubb! I should have known.”)

Then again, we live in a world of climate change, poverty, the pandemic flu, peak oil, collapsing ocean eco-systems, Glenn Beck, and an impending sequel to Twilight. Maybe the next killer app will be diminished reality.

More Noise to Signal.

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