Thursday, April 12, 2012

AR as the 8th of the mass media?

Presumably everyone noticed last week Google announcing it's initial experiments with augmented reality glasses under the codename 'Project Glass'.

I've posted below the video that demonstrates the anticipated capability of the 'device' that shows voice commands being used to send messages, take photos, share to G+, see the locations of friends, view maps, get product information and so on and so forth.

It's been accepted for some time now that the next evolution of computing is likely to be 'wearable'. We've all seen the speculation around wristband iphone, bendy tablets and all the rest.

If, like me, you have a particular interest in the development of mobile technology and how that relates to the promised personalisation of media and the internet I would suggest that you follow the thoughts and writings of Tomi Ahonen, the former Nokia exec, now independent consultant and recognised as the foremost thinker on the present and future of mobile technology and communication.

Ahonen's 2008 book 'Mobile as the 7th of the Mass Media' is a good place to start, and triggered several lightbulb moments in my own head when I first read it in 2010 (albeit 2 years late to the party) Yesterday Ahonen published a post on his blog giving his endorsement to the notion of Augmented Reality being the next, and therefore 8th, mass medium.

The development of Google Glass is significant as it represents a potential curve jump for a technology - AR - that has been held back or bubbling under for the simple reason (or one of the reasons) that the hardware to support the software has been too clunky or inconvenient.

*Yes, it's hard to believe that we are already looking at smartphones as being clunky...thts exponential for you.

I spent several years at the end of the 90's and early 2000's working with interactive tv, similarly the hardware was not there to support the creativity and innovation, and it is only now that the smart tv platforms are emerging that really lends utility to bring the value to life.

Likewise with AR, perhaps now the hardware platform is starting to emerge that allows the software platform to transcend itself from a gimmicky addition to mobile/portable devices to being a real augmentation to reality/daily life.

Tomi says:

'Yes, AR is cool on smartphones. But that is 'part time' use of AR. What if AR was the first unavoidable mass media channel? The first pervasively consumed mass media? Mobile phones as we know from the 7th Mass Media theory, have unique abilites such as being always connected and being permanently carried. So too will be AR (on glasses) but we don't consume media on our phones in uninterrupted way. The media consumption is in our pocket but we also put it into our pocket, away. These AR glasses by Google will change all that. We are seeing the birth of the first pervasive mass media (that might not be the best term, I have to think about it). So yes, am ready to call it. Augmented Reality is the 8th Mass Medium.'

A valuable technological enhancement or a further step into authentic social life being replaced with a representation?
This remains to be seen.

If Google are on to it then it's safe to assume that the Apple's of this world are also on the case so it's a watch-this-space situation, for sure. For those of us in agency land then it's possibly time to dust off those ditched AR experiments from back in the day.

Here's a recap on the table of mass media with the new addition to the family.

1st mass media PRINT - from 1400s
2nd mass media RECORDINGS - from 1890s
3rd mass media CINEMA - from 1900s
4th mass media RADIO - from 1920s
5th mass media TELEVISION - from 1940s
6th mass media INTERNET - from 1992
7th mass media MOBLE - from 1998
8th mass media AUGMENTED REALITY - from 2010

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