BBC Click on-line ran an item this week about a new augmented reality app called Layar. Augmented reality is basically about adding information onto live video so that you can see more detail about the world around you - or add virtual content. For example, you could view house prices, twitter feeds or street information through your phone - or navigate your way around a museum - like sat nav on foot. For techies and geeks this opens up a world of possibility - as long as you have a phone that will run the software - which does limit it to Google Android users at the moment (sigh....)
It all sounds great fun to me and I look forward to lifting up my phone and being able to see all sorts of extra information about the world around me. On the other hand, I can already hear the voices of the the techno-sceptics who once proclaimed that bicycles or the radio would kill Sunday worship - or that Facebook would turn us into sociopaths.
It occurs to me however that we already live in a world of "augmented reality" because we all view the world through our own filters of knowledge or predjudice. Unfortunately we're not always aware of these filters or the fact that other people may see the world differently. Whether you are a Christian, an athiest, a pschologist or a stamp collector - you have unique knowledge or perceptions which shape your understanding of the people and things you see around you. You have a "world view" - which makes you who you are - and the world around you what it seems to be.
Bring on the AR - but let's try to be more self-aware about what we choose to see...
At least with Layar (or another Augmented Reality Browser) you could adjust the settings and make conscious decisions about what you want to see. Perhaps we should spend some time thinking about the settings that aleady exist in our heads. Can they be changed? - and when should we change them?