Advertising and Augmented Reality

Jamais Cascio has a great new column in Fast Company on the potential for augmented reality:

“What happens when you combine increasingly immersive digital tools and aggressive competition between advertisers and filters? Unintended, and potentially quite unsettling, consequences.

Technologists and futurists call the mashup of digital info and physical space “blended reality.” Apps in development for the iPhone and Google’s Android platform are early indicators that a seamless blending of atoms and bits may soon be available to us. And just beyond that, personal heads-up displays, digital glasses, and other forms of wearable immersive systems, all of which exist in prototype may give us a view of reality seamlessly blending the Internet and the physical world. “

Blended reality sounds very much like the extended sensory apparatus predicted in David Ronfeldt’s paper “The Prospects for Cyberocracy.” There is, of course, a dark side—and Cascio is blunt in telling us how much spam augmented reality will likely create. The concept of AR in and of itself is an interesting evolution of futurism—much of which used to be centered around the notion of an entirely different (but illusory) world created by technology. The Matrix is perhaps a vulgarization of this idea. Now, the most interesting ideas about shifts in reality and technology instead come from the blending of physical space and digitized information. What it represents is a victory for holism over the mind-body divide represented by the cyberpunk idea of surfing the “vast and infinite” net as a disembodied form.
As always, the security implications are highly interesting—both in terms of the obvious change in deception, counterdeception, propaganda, and surveillance methodology–and in the more strategic change in how we communicate and interact with others. This vision of a seamless blend of the Internet and the physical world may never come to pass–at least in the form Cascio describes (see H.G. Wells and his idea of the “World Brain” compared to the Internet), but it is certainly worth thinking about as technological continues to evolve.

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