Augmented Reality is Coming

We’ve made mistakes - lucky ones and bad ones - in our history with technology. There are lessons to be learned from our experience with fossil fuels, with electricity, with computers, the internet, smartphones, even with language itself.

Today, many of the world’s largest software companies are placing bets on augmented reality having a world-changing impact on our economy. Implicit in that is the assumption that augmented reality will also change our culture, our politics, our relationships, and, by extension, what it means to be human.

And yet, from what we know of how most publicly-traded companies make bets in general, and how the tech companies in question go about their business in particular, we can fairly assume the involved parties are not seriously enough looking at history to guide their plans for bringing AR to the masses.

The Stakes are Hard to Overstate

We have a lot riding on getting this right, and even if we have decades to correct any initial mistakes, we’ve had enough examples of technology doing irreversible damage during the ‘give it a shot’ phase to give us pause at the start.

You and I and everyone who isn’t at the top of one of these companies — we’re on the receiving end of whatever they decide will create the most value for their shareholders.

Because AR hardware is a roll-up - a convergence device - the time will come where all computing is subsumed into the form factor, and it becomes increasingly impractical to participate in society without ‘wearing’.

If, by that time, the only options available for computing are those we’re given by the usual suspects, we may find ourselves in a bad way, making some truly distasteful compromises. If you think you hate your cable company / cell carrier / social network now, imagine if their service mediated the interface between the world and your senses.

Don’t Believe Them When They Tell You You’re a Serf

I refuse to accept the premise that because AR hardware is hard, and that because the companies building hardware want total control of their platforms, that no alternative to their offerings could possibly exist.

I believe it’s possible to create something like an ‘AR web’ that lowers the barrier to entry for creators, and levels the playing field for all voices, across platforms. I believe such a thing could be so compelling that the companies building walled gardens around their hardware feel compelled to support it.

I believe we’ve acquired enough scars to know that we should create technology that reflects our values, and design systems that contribute to creating the world we want to live in. I believe it’s not too late to get started.

Join me for essays, interviews, podcasts, Q&As, and maybe the occasional live stream as I hash this out in realtime.

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Want to get started now? Read the manifesto to get an overview of what Augmented Realist is about.

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Augmented Realist advocates for a spatial internet that reflects our values.


I write Augmented Realist. Chief at Hard Work Party.