Augmented reality (AR) technology is all about combining computer-generated data and real-world data, blending computer graphics and real footage in real time. Er, ok, good, but what does that mean? Take the case of New York: New Yorkers, and visitors to the Big Apple, will soon be able to find their way around the metro system using the yet-to-be-approved iPhone 3GS AR application acrossair (see below).

AR technology is coming, hard and fast (see the Guardian, Lifehacker, Los Angeles Times, Core 77 etc) and will most certainly revolutionise the way we use and ‘see’ data. For instance imagine an application designed for finding your way around the European Parliament (EP). Let’s call it ‘EP Insights’.

Imagine you’re a new MEP/a new MEP assistant/a still wet-behind-the-ears consultant/a visitor (pick one, they all share a common inability to find their way around the EP) and you are running late for parliamentary vote. EP Insights could allow you to take out your smart phone when entering the EP, inputting the room name/number that you need to go to and then by simply holding up your phone in front of you, computer generated directions would appear on your touch screen, superimposed on real video footage. The application could show you arrows, distance and time to destination and more. You would find your way around the EP in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.

Does a digital layer on top of your real world sound really cool to you? Yes? OK, well then you are ready to meet the Swedes behind ‘The Astonishing Tribe’. They have developed an application called Augmented ID, which is (possibly) an example of the darker side of AR technology. It’s an application that visualises the digital identity of people you meet in real life.

Imagine you are giving a presentation, someone in the audience picks up their phone, points it towards you, identifies you digitally using Augmented ID; they instantly get access to whatever digital information you have decided to share (your facebook account, your LinkedIn profile, your latest YouTube upload, your digital business card etc.).

Are you scared yet (see below)?

– Emil

(UPDATE 20 JULY 2009: Wired Magazine picks up on Augmented ID video.

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