Augmented reality in the digital future

In our increasingly digital world, the cognitive load we bear to make sense of daily life is becoming ever greater. Smartphones and information services help us manage this information over-abundance. Indeed, the first wave of location-based services today provides navigational assistance together with previously recorded satellite and street views of areas of interest. But finding more information (and more current) while out in the world is still largely a manual and tedious task.

By the end of this decade, augmented reality software will offer synthesized spatial awareness integrated with the vast resources of the internet. Rather than searching through a browser, you will use this new form of looking glass to peel back layers of the physical world, to peer into the digital reality that lurks beneath.

Hold your camera phone up and a live view of the street scene is overlaid with descriptions of visible points of interest - a highly-rated restaurant in a non-descript building, a bookshop around the next corner, a holiday parade scheduled for the weekend. As you pan the camera, the overlaid content is replaced, remaining relevant to the framed view. Zoom in and more detailed digital content becomes available, such as the current reading lists at a bookshop, daily coffee specials or help wanted postings.

This mental power tool is coming soon to a smartphone near you.

Miller Abel is principal program manger for Microsoft's Mobile Communications Business

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