Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Augmented Reality Does Not Have to Be a Douchebag's Wingman

A new concept demo showcases the near future of augmented reality. Unfortunately, instead of solving actual problems, it opts for shallow scenes of narcissism and sexism custom-built for the 1%.

Recently, Infinity Augmented Reality launched a video about the nearish future of augmented reality built upon what they humbly describe as “the first augmented reality software platform to connect universally with digital eyewear, smartphones and tablets, integrating multiple devices into one platform.”

Intriguing. But ultimately disappointing. Instead of augmented reality solving actual problems, their concept video reinforces and exacerbates all of the negative swirl most recently witnessed over Google Glass. Specifically: it’s a creepy product worn by creepy douchebags.

This three-minute joyride of masturbatory “because we can” technology showcases and promotes white entitlement, class elitism, sexism, and cheating. The near-incoherent “script” kneels before the alter of personal gain at the expense of others. It purposefully dismisses humility and privacy. After all, why play fair when you have cheat codes for society? The narrative could only have been devised by an American.

A Missed Opportunity

On one hand, the presentation lands tone-deaf to the current economic and societal challenges the world faces. On the other hand, the presentation fumbles away the product’s actual promise.

Taking a picture? Getting a weather report? Directions? Unlocking a car door? A speedometer? Dictating a Facebook message? That’s not revolution, it’s more interface.

The interesting bits — calculating billiards shots, face-scanning and tone recognition, playing digital dress-up with clothing inventory — glimpse at something more than an iPhone app. But ultimately, real-world challenges are traded away for rich white people inconveniences.

It’s too easy to paint this picture.

What if augmented reality were put to good use? A few ideas:

  • A farmer surveys their fields and evaluates each crop’s growing stage, patches of drought, soil health, evidence of disease. They are fed a prediction of optimal harvest time modeled on current trends and weather forecasts.
  • A hiker instantly identifies the snake that just bit her.
  • A museum provides context to each piece in its collection, including deep magnification of details, the political environment and artist’s life-state at the time of creation, and a public forum about the piece from others currently in the building.
  • A traveler helps someone with a disabled vehicle on the side of the road with real-time directions for changing the tire.
  • A doctor accesses a new patient’s complete medical record — past visits, X-ray images, prescriptions, doctor notes, current insurance — to make an appropriate diagnosis.
  • A first-responder better evaluates wounds while having visibility into the quantity and position of medical supplies en route to the emergency.
  • An architect programs a prospective interior design to a room space so the client can literally walk through a concept.
  • A troop on the ground can better identify legitimate targets to reduce civilian casualties.
  • A foreigner receives translations for signs, signals and speech in real time.
  • A pedestrian passes a fundraiser and makes a donation on the spot.

We Can Do Better

Augmented reality can literally change the world. We can do better than a Day in the Life of a Douche.