Brendan Dawes
The Art of Form and Code

Augmented Reality: is it a Bit Rubbish?

I've never been a fan of reality. I hate reality TV shows, never watch them and never allow them to invade my home. I can see reality when I go outside thanks, I don't need need it spewing into my living room. And then there's things like virtual reality. Completely rubbish. We were promised Lawnmower Man and instead got Alan Titchmarsh. So now everyone bangs on about Augmented Reality. Damn. There's that word again: reality. 

 My fourth law sums this up nicely:
"Any technology with the word 'reality' appended is always rubbish."
Here's why I think this is so.
The other month I was in New York, and as always myself and my wife wanted to try new places to eat, shop etc. In the past we'd use something like Zagats, but of course these days we have things like the iPhone. I'm a big fan of geo-location services as I think on a base level it's simply rather nice to be able to push a button to find places near me - especially when a deciding factor is whether Lisa can walk there in her heels. So when looking for somewhere using the iPhone I had two choices; use an augmented reality app such as Layer, or using something like Yelp. Now, this may just be me but the overhead of looking like a complete "twat" is just way too much when using "point and shoot" augmented apps. Holding your phone like some kind of sci-fi binoculars and moving around the landscape makes you look like a dick. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice thing to demo, and people always go "ooh that's cool", but generally, you look like a complete and utter dick. Instead, I used Yelp. It brought up a list of nearby restaurants, sans looking like a complete cock, or attracting attention to myself. It was quiet. It was silent and it didn't get in the way. It may not be sexy. It may not be as cool or get press attention because its Minority Report index is much lower that AR, but it does what I need it to do in a much better, more efficient way.
And then there's the other side of AR. The pointless "Robert Downey Jr jumping out at you" type pieces of crap that are so vacuous. I'm really enjoying how that's changed the magazine industry and AR covers have become the norm now. Oh wait. They haven't. Now look, yes it was cool. It made me smile. It was fun. And that's a very good thing. But it kind of reminds me of when samplers first appeared in the early eighties and everything was sampled without any kind of consideration of whether there was a need. But as with all new technology we have to go through a period of pushing buttons to see what happens; eventually we start to use this stuff in a much more sophisticated way that addresses a need.
As of this moment in time I'm yet to see a really great use for AR, that will make me use it everyday, beyond being something that is just used to show off in key notes. I remain being open to be convinced otherwise, but right now, I have to conclude that AR is a bit rubbish.