For years, tech analysts and insiders have speculated that augmented reality goggles were just a few years away. These products would provide a data layer superimposed over the real world similar to that depicted in the Terminator movies…albeit one less likely to place crosshairs over Sarah Conner, and more likely to allow you to friend her.
Well, last week, the NYT wrote that such products are within months of coming onto the market, and will likely be released in time for Planet Niburu’s arrival (aka Christmas 2012). That’s right, folks, all that talk about the world-as-we-know-it coming to an end in 2012 is really going to happen. Only, future historians will log 2012 not as the realization of a Mayan apocalypse, but as the beginning of the end of the Internet and the rise of something much better.
Imagine you’re walking down the street and want to find the closest biker bar. Simply input your search (I’m fascinated to see how this will get pulled off) and then start scanning the surrounding world around you for the results.
Far more than virtual reality or cyberspace, augmented reality is the real future for information seekers. My guess is that 20 years out, people will look at examples of web pages and have to laugh at how rooted in the 20th Century file cabinet mentality they were. They will scratch their heads and wonder how anyone ever found anything relevant. The very idea that you would create information that was not tied to a physical space will astonish them.
Once AR goggles come online, relevance will be tied to location…period. We’ve already seen this with our location based services via our smartphones, but these too, are merely a stepping stone. And I think if you look at Google’s product line you’ll start to see that they have been anticipating the AR future for some time.
Here’s my take: The web of the future will be something akin to Google Earth + Planet Earth. Let’s say that you’re looking for a woman named Sarah Conner. A few years ago, if you ran this search, you would be treated to all kinds of location-agnostic results that would drown you in a flood of irrelevant data. Run that search on Google today and you might get the Sarah Conners your contacts on Google Plus are associated with and perhaps the ones listed in directories in your current town. Fast-forward to an Internet that is oriented around goggles, and suddenly your top search result would be the Sarah Conner closest to you on Planet Earth at that moment (assuming she allows any random killer robot from the future to locate her online).
Or, let’s say that you really don’t want the closest Sarah, but just the ones in Los Angeles. Flip over to Google Earth in your goggles, run your search and zoom in on L.A.
Termination was never so easy!
All of this will really challenge the utility of the simple web site, suspended in the cloud, independent of the real world. It seems that at the very least, web sites will be dramatically reorganized over the next decade as we scramble to geo-locate wikipedia articles and the like. Some things may not be so helpful if they are tied to a location (where does StarWars.com go? Up in the sky? Lucas Ranch in California?), but the vast bulk of sites related to locations will move from the web to the world.
And now for the compulsory cliché: The future’s so bright, we gotta wear…