Many people enter the inside-out world of augmented reality (AR) by doing something as ordinary as visiting a major city like New York and trying to get to a local friend’s favorite pizza shop, somewhere deep in Brooklyn, via public transportation. Standing in Times Square on a summer evening, they might hold up a new smart phone and pan it slowly around the Square to see a pointer to the nearest subway entrance overlaid on their phone’s video display of the buildings around them.
While ubiquitous computing remains an unpleasant mouthful of techno-babble to most people who know the term, and everyware is still an essentially unknown idea, the visibility of augmented reality has surged in the last twelve months. In addition to the spate of mobile applications—including Augmented ID, Wikitude, Layar, Nearest Tube, and the still unreleased TwittARound—augmented reality is increasingly visible in popular cross-media experiences. For example, Mattel is releasing new toys in conjunction with the James Cameron film Avatar that invoke online content when users scan them with a Web cam, and LEGO in-store kiosks have used augmented reality. With baseball cards from Topps and Pokemon cards, even the venerable trading-cards experience now includes augmented reality. Read More
As the recent launches of Google Goggles (see Figure 1), Bing Maps (see Figure 2), Junaio, and the Unifeye SDK have demonstrated, technical barriers to delivering augmented reality (AR) experiences on a broad scale are falling rapidly. Separate advances in technologies for practical and commercial-scale, cloud-based speech and language processing; real-time search; computer vision; accurate geolocation and device awareness; AR commerce and development platforms; as well as high-bandwidth, sensor-enhanced mobile devices are coming together to form a first-generation infrastructure for augmented reality. Read More
Everyware’s core principle is that computing will escape the tight confines of dedicated machines to permeate the wider world. Mark Weiser described what we now call everyware as “machines that fit the human environment….”  In his view of the future, computing is fully integrated into the environment surrounding humanity, but remains essentially separate from and external to human beings in body, mind, and spirit. Weiser used this implied boundary between human and computer—and the ubiquitous computing scenarios he and John Seely Brown wrote were careful never to cross it—to maintain a distinction between the research and development efforts taking place in business and academic contexts and the speculative realm of science fiction.
However, the goal of this column is to explore and understand the evolving relationship between design and everyware, so it is useful to cross Weiser's boundary and look further ahead, at what may happen when meaningful distinctions between humans, technology, and the environment dissolve and all of these elements become fully integrated into a truly ubiquitous experience. In his novels Ilium and Olympos, author Dan Simmons creates just such a lifeware scenario, in which humanity itself is consciously and deliberately designed in all of its emotional, ethical, moral, political, social, cognitive, and cultural aspects. In the future Simmons envisioned in Ilium and Olympos, humanity is inseparable and indistinguishable from computing technology in all three aspects: mind, body, and spirit. Read More