In some professional contexts, augmented reality is a powerful learning tool, offering unequalled support to engineers, helping them follow complex maintenance scenarios without prior knowledge of a building or infrastructure’s components mapping (as long as a complete digital model of the infrastructure to be serviced has been created).
With powerful image recognition and video processing, augmented reality finds its way into comparative shopping (taking a picture of a good while you are in a retail shop to compare its price at various online venues), or as a marketing tool that animates objects or characters in 3D as if they were present to assist you as a consumer.
An augmented reality 3D demo featuring a Lego character outside its package.
Theoretically, it could also be used to “recognize” and tag unfamiliar faces in the street, by data-mining the web for identifiable pictures (say tagged posts on Facebook or other social media where people willingly identify themselves).
Other intrusive use cases may just be geo-localized adverts popping up every now and then, trying to lure you into new directions. So your view of the world may end-up slightly blurred by all these extras, but the real world still forms the main context for this digitally enhanced navigation.
At least augmented reality makes that promise to turn the real-world into a life-sized game-play (with other human beings still in the way). Although these extra layers of information tag and play with what you see, in principle they do not block your view (although they may absorb enough of your attention to ignore anything not showing up on your digital interface). This is where the real world becomes a little bit more distant.
Observing how muted and apathetic most smartphone users already appear to be when gazing at their screens, sometimes with earphones plugged-in as another layer of blissful ignorance of the analogue world, I never thought there would be a need