AR is the second most important reality
At 8:18 into our conversation with AR expert and digital futurist, Galit Ariel, she made the most profound statement I've ever heard about immersive digital technologies, like VR:
"I know a super immersive platform that is free and has a social layer built into it and we already know how to use it...and that's PHYSICAL REALITY."
It was at this moment that I realized what bothers me the most about the "shiny object syndrome" that most marketers get around virtual reality and (the very misunderstood) augmented reality. There are buckets of money and energy being poured into the digital "realities" space, while the real reality space (ie. real life) is quite often ignored and, even more often, underfunded.
Spend time actually talking with your customers and potential customers? Nah. That's too expensive and time-consuming.
Invest in bringing value to your customers and potential customers rather than trying to interrupt them? Pffffffffft. Where is the ROI in that?!
That being said, Galit makes a fantastic argument for the value of investing in augmented reality, not virtual reality, which is a very solo interaction and, to date, isn't appealing to a broad range of people - including me. Between the goofy goggles and the disorientation I experience wearing them (including nausea), I would much rather join the groups of people catching Pokemon in the park (yes...this is still very much a thing!).
In the podcast, she talks about a couple of really cool ideas that augmented reality - which is building a digital layer on top of the real-world, rather than escaping the real-world to enter a virtual one - can bring to enhance our experience of the world:
Number one: A layer of information to enhance our interactions + decision-making
Galit sees AR helping us Tony Stark our way through our days. I, personally, would love to be reminded of someone's recent birthday or what we last discussed when running into them. And, for anyone with allergies, wouldn't it be amazing to look at a dish and get notified of potential hazards?
Number two. Augmented spaces, rather than solo experiences, to break down accessibility barriers.
Today, you need to shell out a lot of money and be pretty technically savvy to get the digital layer of the world working for you. This creates all sorts of digital divides. According to Galit, the best way forward isn't to create augmented reality apps but, instead, to create augmented spaces so that anyone can interact with these spaces, whether they have the technology or not.
An example of this would be in health. Someone entering a clinic could be identified through facial recognition and the medical staff could immediately pull up their history, allergies, current medications and even check their vitals. A patient without a fancy new phone would enjoy the same service as one with one.
Number three. Getting us looking up and around again...and help us be more truly social.
We spend unhealthy amounts of time with our necks stretched and our faces sucked into our phones, but a future of AR will likely be screen and hands-free.
This is VERY exciting for me. I've been finding myself using voice more in an attempt to keep my eyes up and aware of the world around me. The breaking point for me was a physical therapist telling me that it would take months (and perhaps years) to fix my terrible posture, which was the result of craning my neck towards screens for years. With children growing skull horns as a result of this poor postural practice, this can't happen soon enough.
Galit goes on to talk about all sorts of mind-blowing ideas that really did convince me that augmented reality could be the positive technology we need to help us undo the negative effects of many other technologies. She isn't a digital utopian, though. She also understands how any technology can be used for evil.
Listen here and let me know what you think of AR.
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