Thursday, 5 February 2015

Blogphilosophy: Microsoft's #Hololens, the #augmented journey

With Microsoft providing a glimpse into its hololens project (related to Windows 10 options), I felt it would be good to recap on augmented reality, and see what thoughts come to mind when thinking about the exiting hololens endeavor.

History in the blink of an eye
The concept of augmented reality has been around for quite some time. More then hundred years ago (1901) Frank Baum - author most famous for the Wizard of Oz - came up with the idea of an electronic display that put a layer over the real life world. As graphics and computational power increased, Steve Mann (who came up with the wonderful concept of Sousveillance, appreciated by activists everywhere) came up with a system that put text and graphics over a photographic image, creating an augmented reality, the eye-tap.
This is where it becomes of interest for education, as simulations become a possibility. By 2008 augmented reality is being rolled out for the masses: wikitude, Layar, and the inevitable introduction of augmented use in marketing (printing, buying via qr-codes...e.g. metaio) becomes possible through the use of mobile phones with apps.

Augmented reality as performance enhancer
As augmented reality becomes more mainstream, the public implementations, and job performance options become more apparent, which leads to bigger projects. In education augmented reality has been used in video support of specific historical reenactments (now frequently used in documentaries, for example in the 3-D imaging put on top of the real world in this trailer of Archaeology of Portus). The implementation of augmented reality in professions indirectly or directly related to design, architecture, engineering are straightforward: augmented reality allows a concept or new design to be investigated with less cost, and 3D models. Augmented reality has been successfully implemented in guiding workers to do specific (new) jobs by providing them on-site virtual support on what they needed to do with the parts they needed to fit together (e.g. nice slide-deck on topic).

Mobility as a driver
The roll out of mobile technology and mobile devices was crucial for sending augmented reality out into the real, mainstream world. And those same mobile devices had something that would increase augmented options: the mobile device sensors. With these sensors multiple tracking and spatial location options became possible, increasing the overall augmented reality experience.
The mobility of all of us, pushed augmented reality into the public sphere. There were some first steps into a more holistic, augmented approach for the general public: Google glass, metaglasses... but now Microsoft comes up with the stand-alone (nice!) hololens computer.

The Hololens
The hololens offers to be a fully functional computer option that allows you to interact in a space - living room or office or park, anywhere... without markers, wires, nothing, just the device as a native instrument. And, what is a great addition: it builds upon the motion detection that was put on the map by Kinect. As such it combines human motion, with mobile sensors, to dip into all the digital content that is already out there on the Web, in the Cloud... so no more wires, just tapping into the virtual, digital world. It seems like a real augmentation of the human body and mind.
I like it, a lot. Especially because it is a native machine. And of course it offers options that no other device ever offered, as such it brings along the pleasures of tinkering with a new invention. The options for education are multiple: augment the classroom, augment housework, increase informal, augmented and immediate learning... It is a really cool tool, a nice new human instrument.

But what are the first ideas that come to mind when reflecting on possible side effects?

  • The promo-video talks about 'More reality than ever before' is one of the motto's of the hololens. And I can see how this seems like a truth, but is it? Because with our brains, there are only so many inputs that can be processed. So, we might be able to gain time when using the hololens (no longer having to find wifi first, or other barriers that limit immediate access to content), and time might be used in an optimal form due to the merging of data (e.g. recognize face - know what they do or expert at - so immediately strike up a conversation - or not), but reality is the sum of all things, and our concentration picks up whatever we are searching for. 
  • More virtual options for thinking over design (any field) also means that less people are necessary in those fields. What can be done digitally, must not be done manually. This will affect the job market - for those designer support jobs at least. 
  • The immediacy of the information and augmentation also makes me wonder about the immediacy of propaganda. Photoshopping will be immediate, merging live events with fake objects/people and streaming them as if it is real. 
  • And inevitably the barrier of us humans becomes clear once again. We invent things, apply them, but we never seem to cross over to the other species, the super-human, or the non-human. Anything and everything we do seems to mimic humanness... I wish we could get over that.
  • The Specific Absorbation Rate (SAR) information would be of interest to me, as it is a stand-alone device which is worn close to the brain. 

Well, fun to reflect I think. And, what a cool tool the hololens seems to be! The link to the live event of the hololens can be seen here. But I rather share the Hololens trailer below: