We look at five technologies that look set to become part of every day lives very soon, to find out how they'll change our lives.
'Augmented reality' in mobile devices
You enjoyed Hulk VI so much on your home theater setup that you decided to see it on the big screen.
The movie is still playing, but you're not sure how to find the movie theater where it's playing.
In the old days, you might have printed out directions from MapQuest; but nowadays you don't need to do anything so primitive.
Instead, you dock your smartphone on the dashboard as you slip into your car, and instantly it superimposes driving directions to the theater are superimposed on your car's windshield.
As you approach your destination, you see a group of tall buildings. Superimposed on the windshield over one of the buildings is the building's name, the name of the movie theater inside it, the name Hulk VI, and a countdown to show time.
‘Turn left in 100 yards', the navigator speaks through your stereo as a large turning arrow appears, guiding you into the parking structure.
In Neal Stephenson's book Snow Crash, 'gargoyles' are freelance intelligence gatherers who have wired themselves to see (through goggles that annotate all of their experiences) a permanent overlay of data on top of the physical world.
In less immersive fashion, we may all become gargoyles as 'augmented reality' becomes an everyday experience.
Augmented reality is a catchall term for overlaying what we see with computer-generated contextual data or visual substitutions.
The point of the technology is to enhance our ability to interact with things around us by providing us with information immediately relevant to those things.
At work, you might walk around the office and see the name and department of each person you pass painted on them - along with a graphical indicator showing what tasks you owe them or they owe you.
Though many case scenarios involve ‘heads-up' displays embedded in windshields or inside eyeglasses, the augmented reality we have today exists primarily on the ‘heads-down' screens of smartphones.
Several companies have released programs that overlay position- and context-based data onto a continuous video camera feed.
The data comes from various radios and sensors built into modern smartphones, including GPS radios (for identifying position by satellite data), accelerometers (for measuring changes in speed and orientation), and magnetometers (for finding position relative to magnetic north).
In an application called Nearest Places, the names and locations of subway stops, parks, museums, restaurants, and other places of interest are shown on top of an iPhone's video feed. As you walk or turn, the information changes to overlay your surroundings.
"Smartphones and the related apps are the trailblazers for augmented reality," says Babak Parviz, a professor at the University of Washington who specialises in nanotechnology. "In the short to medium term, my guess is that they will dominate the field."
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