Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The new reality looks a lot like the old reality.

Augmented Reality is one of the most frustrating technologies I have ever followed. Frustrating because it is hard to describe to people. And - I lived through the days when you had to explain what the Internet was to people. I used to give up sometimes and just say I was in the computer industry. That seemed to satisfy everyone. It wasn't a light bulb moment - but people got it. Generically.

Frustrating because I can see how this sector "could" make money. I just don't see how they will. Which is the bigger frustration. I like when companies make money. It makes me believe they might live.

Last year I went to the ARE2010 conference, and really left with more ambivalence than evangelism. So I didn't even blog about the conference.

This year ARE2011 came around, and I didn't even try to get in. Even when I got an invite I almost blew it off. It wasn't until the day before the conference I looked at the schedule and found that Jaron Lanier would be speaking.

When I think of old Silicon Valley - I think of Jaron. He came a little after the Microsoft and Apple guys. Virtual reality was the push at the time.

When I first started in technology - it was just about the time garage tinkerers were dying off in favor of guys with BA degrees. Now, these companies are jam packed with with PHD's. Jaron at the time represented to me that you could still work your way up being self taught. It was huge at the time because I couldn't afford college. I needed to work to survive.

All day yesterday I tried to figure out how I was going to describe the things I've seen. Mr S. and I have probably had 20 conversations over the past couple of years on how to articulate my problems with the segment. Again I expressed my frustration at a lack of adoption of the technology. Trying to examine the bottle neck.

Was it because cell phone companies are like the retarded step children of the computer world? People are locked into two year contracts when your phone is going to be obsolete in a year. Are they just not able to get the capabilities for a content rich environment fast enough because of this?

I don't know. But I'd been thinking all day what intelligent questions I could ask to find out. It finally came last night.

Mr S - You know... we both worked at a few companies where Virtual Reality was right around the corner.

And it dawned on me, Augmented Reality was just this generations Virtual Reality. Would it suffer the same fate though? A vast nothingness. Sure really neat things came from it, but we didn't really ever realise that world.

So I gathered all my courage to ask Jaron why he thought Augmented Reality would be different. Virtual Reality was always right around the corner. How would augmented Reality be different.

It was then I got the most unsatisfying reply he could have ever given. Oh, Virtual Reality is still right around the corner - he said.

Maybe my perception of "right around the corner" is different than his. Because I've been waiting for like 20 years. That isn't right around the corner to me. But, I am basically a nobody. What do I know? All I am searching for is a reason to stay interested, and tell people why they should stay interested too.

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