If you did not notice yet, those virtual roaches - and human’s real reactions to those virtual bugs - keep me puzzled. That puzzled during I shared my thoughts on it with the real life friends. You know, those friends that ‘don’t like virtual worlds’, ‘prefer real life’, still ‘wonder what the hell it is that you are doing’, but that you love none the less as you forgive them their ignorance! ;) And also exact the kind of friends that - because of their ignorance - come up with great ideas regarding virtual stuff. They are able to look beyond those eye shells that grow on you when spending to much time in - any - world. And one of those friends told me about ‘augmented reality’. Using the words: ‘Having a virtual Christina Ricci projected in my bedroom would get me off, yeah, so I assume that stuff can be real. But preferably in my bedroom, yes.’*
Augmented reality is where one ads a layer of ‘virtual goodness’ on top of the real world, and do it that well that they blend in almost perfectly. But what do the roaches have to do with this all? In 2007 the clinical psychology department at Universitat Jaume I in Castelló, Spain did exact that experiment with virtual roaches: A team of computer-imaging specialists filmed the creatures, digitised images of their scurrying and teeming, and displayed the images—not on a computer monitor, but on see-through goggles. To the wearer, the virtual roaches then look as though they are really in the room. Next, university psychologists set about therapeutically frightening patients who have a fear of insects. “They put a foot on the ground and the cockroaches start climbing over it,” says Cristina Botella, who led the researchers. “The computer just pumps them out.” In November Ms Botella presented her team’s findings at the Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies conference in Philadelphia. The treatment worked very well. I would love to see them test this with virtual roaches in our brave new virtual world**. Reality, only better from the Economist states: For some things, it turns out, computer graphics can be much more effective when viewed not on screens, but superimposed on the real world. The technique is known as “augmented reality” (AR) or, less frequently, as “augmented vision”, because the real world is augmented with virtual text or graphics. Ah, yeah well… as stated before, if you spend enough time in our virtual world, it kinda grows on you, and becomes as real - or almost as real - as that other one.
Still, I guess we just can’t do without ‘real life’ - ;) - and here are some interesting applications for augmented reality:
- Scan for veins under skin, processes that data and then projects the veins on your skin in real time, making sure the nurse knows where to stick that needle. Would be handy because: it sucks to go to school in a long sleeve when it’s 30 degrees Celsius because else they’ll all think you’re a junk.
- Tourist information, in stead of long brochures of boring text and dates, give the visitors a pair of goggles and show them battle scenes, how the ruins looked when they were still ‘castle’, or what exactly happened in the master’s bedroom. Would be handy because: they can charge extra for the viewer that includes pr0n scenes.
- Virtual safaris in France the Parc du Futuroscope. Would be handy because: Reality TV sucks nowadays and it does no harm if you feed a virtual animal. They can sell an endless amount of virtual food.
- In the military: Soldiers with head-mounted displays might read street names superimposed on the ground, follow colour-coded arrows for patrols or retreats, and see symbols indicating known or potential sniper nests, weapons caches and hiding places for booby-traps. The displays could also show the locations of friendly forces and levels of ammunition and other supplies, as in a video game. Would be handy because: Flight simulator fell in enemy hands.
All sound rather kewl, no? So what use for augmented reality could you think off? I think my friend was dead on target with his ‘virtual pr0n, live in your bedroom’ idea, but I’m sure you can think of some other great innovations making use of augmented reality?
* I do not exclude the possibility that for his birthday his bedroom will be rebuild in the virtual world and a Christina Ricci skin & shape will be shopped for! ;)
** Brave New Virtual World, a world previously known as Second Life, now Second Life™.