The Case Against Augmented Reality
Gianmarco at the University of Computer Science in Bologna (Italy) asked an interesting question a few days ago on the cons of augmented reality. When talking about AR we are always looking on the positive side so in response to Gianmarco’s question I was thinking about the negatives.
Privacy: We discussed before about user being able to geotag your content without you having control. For example your mother comes over to your house and tweets about your priceless collection of Ming dynasty vases. Your home location is geotagged and out there for all to see along with details of your most valued possession. An enterprising thief using the latest version of BurglAR would be able to see high value items worth stealing in the local area. While geotagging is a concern it’s not really a problem caused by augmented reality, your mother may choose to upload a geotagged picture of your Ming vases to Facebook or Flickr so the same data would be available in Google maps.
Location: There are numerous applications to share you location data, Google Latitude, Ping, Hayway to name just a few. Location data is not live, an application has to request your location or you have to update it periodically so people are unable to see your movements in real time. Can anything negative come from people knowing your presence? Possibly a thief could see when you are out and come can take your Ming collection but again it’s not augmented reality making it possible.
3rd Party Data: Layar are doing really well in getting developers to build 3rd party layers so I took a look through the list of the 300 or so to see if there is anything there that could be construed as potentially evil. If we are playing the role of criminal mastermind then we’d be disappointed to learn that Layar isn’t going to help us with our quest for world domination. There are interesting layers that will tell me what products have been sold in an area so I could have my band of henchmen patrolling the streets trying to track down high value items that have just been sold. But I’m sure the data is not live and any would be master criminal would do better sitting outside a local electronics’s store and following someone home.
Users: Users are at risk from augmented reality but mostly though stupidity rather than the technology. For example, driving while messing around with the phone or falling down a manhole because they are not looking where they are going, but the same goes for twittering while driving or walking.
Hollywood: There is a very real risk of crappy AR themed movies. Remember Lawnmower man for virtual reality?
It’s difficult to see any negative in the current implementation of mobile augmented reality as it’s really about taking data from other sources and presenting them in a new view. The data is freely available from other sources and just presented differently.
Is there no potential for evil with augmented reality?
Face recognition: When augmented reality technology becomes powerful enough and we can recognise individuals just by point a phone at them (or through AR glasses) then I think we’ll see some negative. Lets imaging someone builds an application that scans the police crime database. You might happen to share similar features as a known criminal and find yourself banned from stores, worse you could falsely be recognised as a sex offender and have your life ruined.
Advertising: Love it or hate it it’s everywhere. Location aware advertising has been in the works for a while with the promise/threat of offers being sent directly to our mobile devices as we are walking down the highstreet. Depending on your point of view, intrusive advertising could be a negative feature.
Porn: Considering the porn industry is usually the first to adopt new technology it has been remarkably slow to exploit virtual reality or augmented reality. Negative? definitely if you’re the wrong end of the business and being exploited.
I failed to find any immediate negative issues, so let me ask you. If you were planning on becoming a master criminal hell bent on either taking over the world or planning the crime of the century, how would augmented reality help you achieve your goal?