In an article in the Financial Times about location based mobile technology, the journalist Richard Waters uses the term GeoWeb to describe a mobile web that knows and reacts to where you are. It’s a term we haven’t used before but sums up the idea nicely. Much of the article covers ideas PSFK has been discussing for a while, but later in the article, Waters goes on to consider some possible consequences of the GeoWeb:
Once the basic building blocks are in place, the interplay between the virtual world and the real world could become much more inventive. Using a geographically “aware” handset, says Mr Jorgensen [Microsoft], the user could simply issue an instruction to “show everything around me” on a particular subject: the device could trawl the web and filter and present information based on proximity.
Even seemingly fanciful ideas would become possible using these basic technologies, according to Ian Holt, who leads an advanced technology group at Ordnance Survey, the UK mapping agency. Why not location-aware spectacles? “As you look around, they will overlay data about what you’re looking at,” he says, like the “heads-up” displays used by fighter pilots.
According to the technocrats, ideas such as this are a stepping stone towards a future digital playground called “augmented reality”. It is a place where the real world becomes a frame on which to present information. Virtual reality would be turned inside out: rather than retreating into a make-believe virtual world, inhabitants of augmented reality will be living in real space but with layers of data overlaid to deliver a supercharged version of reality.
Using these technologies, real or fictitious information could be “mapped” on to the real world to create new experiences, says Mr Liebhold at the Institute for the Future. “At the click of a mouse, this street could be converted into a space colony or a mediaeval village. This hints at an enormous new entertainment industry.”