Augmented reality, the process of overlaying digital information atop real life vision, seems inevitable to me given the recent direction and pace of technology – the proliferation of smartphones, location-based services, 3D TVs, etc.
Actually, it’s already here. Layar (fig. 1) is a crazy augmented reality browser, available on Android and iPhone, that uses a phone’s camera and superimposes dynamic, sortable content in real time. Another example comes from the Museum of London, which launched a free iPhone app (fig. 2) that blankets its historical art and photography library atop your view.
[fig. 1: Layar, via Mobile Crunch]
[fig. 2: Museum of London app, via LikeCool]
I recently started to think about how this would play out for driving. I don’t think it’s that far off before GPS augmentation becomes a feature in cars, with special touchscreen windshields capable of displaying semi-transparent turn-by-turn directions on top of the road as you drive.
It’s not hard to imagine what comes next: superimposed ads, like a McDonald’s logo that grows progressively larger as you approach the store. One might even be able to tap out an order a mile in advance to speed up the drive-thru process.
It may sound scary, but I tend to be one to look for the upside of these things. In this case, I feel this could at long last mark the death of the billboard. With ads streaming directly into cars, there would presumably no longer be a need to have those clunky eyesores blocking the view across cities and along interstates. We could at last tear those suckers down.
But at the end of the day we’ll just be trading a physical eyesore for a virtual one. My jury is still deliberating over whether or not that is any better. What do you think? Is it worth it to rid skylines of physical billboards, or will it make no difference once the ads are permanently beamed into our line of sight?
Artist Keiichi Matsuda provides an awesome, but dreary picture of what this future might look like, taken to its logical extreme:
Cool or scary?