odd-lot thoughts

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Augmented reality and what it might do

I just learned today (thanks to Robert Scoble's Scobelizer blog) about a concept called "augmented reality," and the work being done by the Vienna Institute of Technology on The Invisible Train game, and their Outdoor Collaborative Augmented Reality project.

What these projects show are ways to use PDAs with a video see-through display* (and some hidden computing power) to access additional information about objects in reality, just by aiming the PDA in that general direction.

The Invisible train uses a real model train track (just the track) to play a game where virtual trains running on that track have to be kept from colliding. The only way to see the trains is through PDA video. They call this a "magic lens" type of effect.

There are pictures and more information (but I want to know even more) on the TU** links above.

This just boggles my mind! When I read this, my mind raced in several directions at once.

For starters, the Outdoor project made me think back to when I first played Myst. I became immersed in that game, and the exploration that was possible just by clicking my mouse on every object I could find. At one point in the real world I was riding in a car and thinking, "I wish I could click on that house, or that sign, and have it tell me something."

Well, with the Outdoor project, you can do just that. I want it now!

Then I started thinking of ways to incorporate that in elearning & simulations. Now, that's the true power of elearning. Not boring page-turners, using "click to continue" and claiming it's interactivity, but true action mazes and simulations coming at you from the objects themselves, only in the PDAs of those enrolled in the course.

And that reminded me of a great website called "Free-range learning."

And then I started thinking about -- what if this were combined somehow with social networking efforts, like blogging, or IM, or Furl? Who needs a list of restaurant reviews in the paper, when you can aim your PDA at the restaurant and see what others have said? (Well, you'd still need reviews, if you were planning ahead and not just wandering down the street.) But still, there are big possibilities in there. More than I can think of offhand, that's for sure.

And then what you'd have is not the world-wide web, but the web-wide world.

I want that.

* Ok, I'm not entirely sure what that is. But I hope it's something I can get for my T3.
** Technische Universitaet Vienna (Vienna Institute of Technology). Don't worry, the site is in English.


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