We are about to come in to the AUSL (Italian hospital) offices of your area and probably already from the first step we will notice the presence of a sign that indicates us the services. Shortly after, we will find another sign with schedules and “toll-free numbers”, a manifesto with this year’s events, one for the pre-natal courses, one for the no smoking day and so on…
A few more steps and we are in the main hall. Here to each counter correspond a sign that specifies the type of provided service, the alphabetical initials of the last name operated by that counter and a fantastic display “spaceship enterprise” style with the progressive number that identifies the citizen that currently benefits of the service.
The reality we perceive in the hall grows bigger and bigger, enriched by the presence of various informative messages. We begin to perceive not only the counter’s employees but also which counter interests us, when it will be our turn and so on…
In fact, often elderly citizens, before such an excess of information, not always simple to read without a pair of glasses and sometimes even tiresome to decode, struggle to understand which counter they have to go and when is their turn.
Our perceptual ability, our senses, allow us to give an added value to the context we are living by taking in consideration “in real time” further informative contents useful to us.
As the matter of fact, the AUSL hall where we have just been, it’s a real, simplistic example of “Augmented Reality”, in this case with the help of papery material and some numerical digital displays.
Now, let’s imagine that before going in AUSL hall, we put on some special glasses that, in total absence of signs and display, allow us to see the same information as mentioned above, indicating us our counter and letting us know when it should be our turn. Basically we see the same counters AUSL but our sight is enriched with digital information for instance sideways or above the counters themselves. Not only, with the help of our voice we can ask our special glasses further details, confirm the ticket’s payment, visualize previous prescriptions, identify the employee that has previously followed our practice and so on…
Our glasses are augmenting our reality enriching it with useful details and on-line services.
The model is that made popular by science fiction movie “Terminator“, directed by James Cameron with the highly decorated bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger as protagonist whose performance in the role of a cyborg killer has probably contributed decisively to his following election as governor of California.
The cyborg in question sees the reality enriched by a lot of textual and numerical information that allow him to make always, or almost always, the most suitable and logical choice.
Once again the science fiction succeeds in representing, at least partly, tools and technologies present in the near future.
At the matter of fact the near future is closer than we think! A discreet number of APP able to enrich what we see is already on the market. With the camera of our tablet or smartphone we can identify a building, an object, a panorama and receive further information. We can see Coliseum or other important monuments as they were in the past, completed by the details corroded by time.
These applications are quickly evolving, they propose more and more intuitive and interactive interfaces, as well as an increasing number of additional “real” contents.
The following short video enriches the “wood” where we are walking with announcements and promotional messages.
But the decisive qualitative leap could take place with tools similar to “Google Glass“, the first example of interactive glasses, able to increase our sensorial perception, therefore the reality, with services and information.
Let us be clear, that of google is only the first step in this direction, for now the applications are a few but the commercial diffusion will gain currency in 2014. The costs in this initial phase are not affordable to all, there is however a high attention to this type of tools, and often where there is a demand technology makes giant steps in short time.
In a few years we will wear glasses that will tell us when we are not respecting the safety distance or the limits of speed while we are driving or if a friend of ours is in the neighbourhood or what has on the menu the restaurant across the street or if the suit we see in the shop window is also available in our size.
Obviously we can share what we see on internet, we can film it, store it and keep it aside on our cloud, send it, post it, tweet it, email it and who knows what else to our friends only by using our new glasses.
Creating new applications for our glasses could revolutionise different areas! Just visualize a doctor wearing the glasses during a visit or a surgery and receiving from them precious information about the critical points where to operate on or a worker during the evaluation of a risk regarding his work or a police officer during the identification of a potential suspect and so on…
I know that for you who read this article, as well as for me, the idea of giving the sight, a meaningful part of our own senses, in exchange for virtual services, is quite destabilizing.
It does not matter, in the next decade even the most conservatives will be forced to conform themselves. The diffusion of Augmented Reality’s tools will be fast and widespread (the same as cash dispenser one; do you remember when it was necessary to go to the counter for withdrawing money?).
Before this presentation of new contents, reality will suddenly become insufficient .
Without your “new glasses” you will find no sign in the AUSL hall, not even an operator and of course you will not know when it should be your turn.