On January 20, 2013, sometime before 7:45PM, Lauren McCarthy sat down at a table. She was early. She always arrived early. Once she had a spot, she checked her setup. She kept the iPhone in her purse, its camera poking out and angled to capture the whole scene. The iPod touch was kept close at hand. The iPhone was connected to Ustream and Ustream was connected to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The Turk workers had a web form to fill out, which would send texts to the touch. Satisfied that it was all in order, she settled in to wait for her date.
Over the next two hours, McCarthy and an anonymous man went through the motions of a first date, while a rotating series of Turk workers watched the video feed for an average of four minutes and 32 seconds, wrote down what they saw and sent McCarthy instructions, which she tried her best to follow. At 9:24PM, one worker rated the interaction a five out of five, told McCarthy that she should say, “What are you looking for?” and logged the following observations: “man seems to pity her and find her exquisite at the same time. WOMAN SEEMS TO HAVE STUMBLED UPON THE WAY TO LIVE!” For this, the worker was paid $0.25.
I might be misunderstand the term, well, actually both terms, but I think Aliette de Bodard‘s work is “post-colonial space opera.” de Bodard has written three stories published in Clarkesworld set in, apparently, the same universe, each using science fiction to explore the effects of colonialism.
“Immersion,” which was nominated for a Nebula this year, is my favorite. It uses augmented reality as a lens to examine cultural imperialism:
“It’s their weapon, too.” Tam pushed at the entertainment unit. “Just like their books and their holos and their live games. It’s fine for them—they put the immersers on tourist settings, they get just what they need to navigate a foreign environment from whatever idiot’s written the Rong script for that thing. But we—we worship them. We wear the immersers on Galactic all the time. We make ourselves like them, because they push, and because we’re naive enough to give in.”
“And you think you can make this better?” Quy couldn’t help it. It wasn’t that she needed to be convinced: on Prime, she’d never seen immersers. They were tourist stuff, and even while travelling from one city to another, the citizens just assumed they’d know enough to get by. But the stations, their ex-colonies, were flooded with immersers.
Tam’s eyes glinted, as savage as those of the rebels in the history holos. “If I can take them apart, I can rebuild them and disconnect the logical circuits. I can give us the language and the tools to deal with them without being swallowed by them.”
“Beholder” by Sarah Grey take a brief look at day to day life in a world where augmented reality is the norm:
She can’t read my traits, though. I am a private person; I do not relish the nagging chime of new comments added to my cloud. I pay a generous sum to a restriction service each month. In return, my data is viciously guarded, bolted and buried like sacred gold. Beyond my physical appearance, all this girl can know is that my name is Maria, that I am fifty-six, that I am an equity partner in a local law firm. She will also see a blink to my charity, founded and named in my daughter’s memory.
My own lenses are Italian—brushed platinum frames with comfort-molded earbuds and a soft rose tint that cools the cafe’s bright fluorescent lights. I blink visuals on, hoping to learn the girl’s name, and an avalanche of words and images engulfs her.
Lindy West writes that although augmented reality “girlfriends” freak her out by objectifying women:
Critics looooooove to climb up on their high horse and flail around with fake concern about shit like this—how Real Dolls and “virtual girlfriends” keep men (and some women, I guess, maybe) from forging real human connections. But let’s be honest, here. There are some people in the world who, unfortunately, will never make a real human connection. There are some people who nobody in the world wants to be around. Or, if somebody does want to be around them, that person might be very very far away (hence, computers!). Those people exist. A computerized goggle-girlfriend might not be the #1 healthiest road to fulfillment, but: a) Who am I, the fulfillment police? (ANSWER: MAYBE); and b) So fucking what? Let them have their things.
Here’s my interview with Bruce Sterling and Vernor Vinge on augmented reality in the workplace. Bruce, Vernor and several others will be speaking at are2011 May 17-18.
I told Sterling and Vinge that I thought that apart from gaming, AR would be most useful to professionals. Yet the only widespread use of AR that I could think of outside of gaming and marketing is in the military. I asked Sterling and Vinge whether they thought AR would be more useful in the civilian workplace than in consumer technology. “The consumer coverage hasn’t covered the most important applications in that domain either,” Vinge said. “AR will be enormously useful in both domains, with the consumer end providing social acceptance and product pricing to further encourage workplace changes.”
Sterling pointed out that “Every medium in a capitalist society has ‘marketing gimmicks.’ TV, cinema, Internet, newspapers, recorded music, even sci-fi novels have gimmicks. Even if AR gets terrifically good at doing something more serious, those marketing gimmicks are not going away.”
Sterling also emphasized that AR needn’t be a stand-alone industry. There’s room for many technologies that apply the general idea of AR.
When content management systems (CMS) like WordPress and Blogger hit the Web several years ago, the Internet entered a new age where it became quick and easy for anyone with a computer to contribute content. This week, augmented reality (AR) took a significant step toward becoming more like the read/write Web with the launch of an online mobile AR CMS for creating content on the Layar platform.
“Augmentation” – a Web-based tool for generating mobile AR content – was created by Layar Partner Network member Hoppala. With a Layar developer account, users of Augmentation can easily and instantaneously place their content in Layar with zero code and a few clicks on a map. Custom icons, images, audio, video and 3D content can all be added by way of a full screen map interface, and Hoppala will even host all of the data.
Metaverse One (creator of that awesome AR anatomy education app) gives us a preview of an upcoming issue of Retinex by 3Satva featuring an augmented reality reality app created by SpiralConcepts. Metaverse notes that there have been comic that have used AR before, this is the first use he’s seen that actually integrates AR into the story.
Electronic musician and artist Donald Baynes, aka FSK1138, spent 10-12 hours a day exploring 3D virtual worlds in 1996 and 97. But now he spends less than 3 hours a week online. He spent an hour of his weekly Internet time chatting with me from a park to tell me why he decided to unplug.
Klint Finley: You say you were “addicted” to virtual reality in the late 90s. How did you get started with VR and what were you doing with it?
FSK1138: During that time – I was what you would call cyberpunk – I spent days plugged into a body suit, data glove, and HMD [head mounted display]. I explored virtual worlds and was surfing the web in 3D. Searching, always searching, for others and A.I out there in the sea of information.
What sort of equipment were you using?
Virtual io HMD, Nintendo Powerglove, dual cpu pPRO.
Did you have broadband back then or was this on dial-up?
I was using dial-up but I moved to Toronto because there was faster Internet – this thing called ISDN.
I remember ISDN. Basically it was using two phone lines to achieve faster speeds, right?
Yes. It was a dream – so much faster. It made 3D surfing VRML [Virtual Reality Markup Language] a reality.
So you were surfing VRML sites then? What were those virtual worlds like back then?
Low rez – like Quake or the first DOOM but at the lowest settings. There was a whole underworld of VRML BBS sites at the time.
And what did you typically do on the BBSes? Chat, socialize?
Chat, socialize, share data – much like what people are doing right now but like the Sims or SecondLife.
Are you still using VR?
No – I think it is a very bad thing. Even back then 3D was considered bad for your eyes and brain. I don’t think we were made for this type of input.
What makes you say that?
The reaction of any one who has seen avatar – when people who have seen it talk about it they always seem to have a smile on their face – the same smile…
He later sent me this article mentioning health concerns surrounding prolonged 3D gaming in children
You say now use the Internet for less than 3 hours a week and do not own a TV, phone, or stove. What brought you to the point that you decided you had to unplug like that?
I lived in Guyana for 4 years. You can have days when you have no power, and I survived. I feel that people think that the Internet will always be there. I feel it will not and the day is coming soon. I have seen the Internet change over the years – it has changed alot. The day is coming, I feel, that the can not remain a free utility.
Life really is not hard without technology if you learn to live without it. But if you’re addicted – what then?
When did you decide to cut back your use of technology?
When I realized it was taking up so much of my time – 2007 – I started closing down websites that I was using. I cut back to Myspace and YouTube – there were so many. And I cut my surfing – I use RSS now, I do not surf. By 2008 I did not have a landline or cell or Internet at home.
Above: Video FSK1138′s “Catch the Man,” a cover of Front 242′s “Headhunter.”
It looks like you use a lot of technology to make your music – have you thought about going towards a more low-tech approach to making music?
I am in a way back to where I started with making music. When I could not get a sampler or computer I used found objects – metal and glass and things you could bang together to make noise.
So you’re not using computers for music music any more?
I am using computers still – I just did a track for The 150-Years-of-Music-Technology Composition Competition.
Do you have any opinions of augmented reality? Have you used any AR applications?
I think is a cool concept. I just hope it doesn’t become the next form of spam.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT just presented an Augmented Reality system for use under water. A diver’s mask with a special display lets the diver see his or her real submarine surroundings overlaid with computer-generated virtual scenes.
In the pilot application, an AR game, the player sees a coral reef with shoals, mussels and weeds, instead of a plain indoor pool. Applications for professional divers are being investigated.