This is a fourth of five posts where I will talk about some technologies that may change how we live, work and play. They are personal opinions and I could very well be wrong. I mention them sometimes in conference presentations and workshops and wanted to describe my thinking more in this series of short posts.
The fourth technology that I think will change how we live, work, play and learn is augmented or layar technology when it is combined with facial recognition. I first talked about this in my Keynote to the Holyrood Internet Safety Conference in February 2010. Let me explain my thinking.
Augmented reality (or at least my understanding of it) is a way that we can lay virtual data or images on top of real images. It has been around for years but again has only recently become more robust and cost effective. I mentioned augmented reality recently in a post about how such technology may allow relatively unskilled people to easily do the jobs of people who currently need to be skilled.
Have a look at the BMW Research Concept Video (YouTube Video below) to see what I mean:
I think that this type of technology may be particularly appealing for some industries as it could be more cost effective but also safer and less of a risk for employees.
We are still a little way off Augmented Reality glasses – this doesn’t mean that they don’t exist (they do!) they are just a little bit expensive at the moment and normally have to be plugged into a computer to work robustly.
However many people have an augmented reality viewer already in their pocket – their mobile phone (a recurring theme of this mini series!).
Modem smart phones know exactly where they are because they have GPS in them. They know which way they are facing because they have an accelerometer and / or digital compass in them. They also have a camera and large viewing screen so you can easily see the world though them. Finally, as long as you have a 3G signal most modern smart phones are constantly connected to the Internet – making them very powerful mini computers.
There are already lots of augmented reality / layer apps available for the iPhone and for the android platform. The new Android commercial shows some of the possibilities of this technology (YouTube clip below).
The potential is huge. Imagine walking down the high street and you are looking for somewhere to eat, you walk past a restaurant, hold up your phone to the restaurant and the latest customer reviews appear around it. Or, you go on a history field trip to a famous battle field and by holding up your phone you can actually see a re-enactment of the battle take place. Or, what about if you visited and extinct volcano (such as Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh) and you hold up your phone to see the geological information about the volcano or even what it might have looked at millions of years ago.
The potential for augmented reality in gaming is also huge. As part of out work at Learning and Teaching Scotland we have already put Sony Eye Pets for the Play Station 3 into a number of Early Years establishments (more about this in a separate post) and also have Invizimals and second sight for the PSP ready to go out to some partner schools early next session. The interesting thing about all of these games is that they use the ‘real world’ as the backdrop for immersive game play.
I’m convinced that these ‘real world’ augmented games will be the big thing of 2011 – 2012 and devices like the Parrot AR Helicopter will add to this new phase of game play. The Parrot helicopter is a hover helicopter with two cameras on it so that you can see what the helicopter sees. The amazing thing about the Parrot helicopter is that you control it over WiFi with your iPhone (and probably other devices as well).
All of these applications are interesting but the real point of my post is to think about what will happen when you combine augmented reality technology with facial recognition software.
Facial recognition software has been around for years and just like all technologies its got better and cheaper over the last few years as computing power has increased. If you’re a mac user facial recognition has been built into the last few versions of iPhone (that ships with all apple computers).
In fact Google has had a real interest in facial recognition for years – this is one of the reasons why they bought Neven Vision back in 2006.
Now lets take all the parts and add them together to think about what will be possible in the not to distant future.
- There are lots of people globally up-load pictures of themselves to the Internet, these pictures are often associated and tagged with the persons first and last name.
- There are also a number of websites that allow web users to aggregate all of their social content to one place (Google Profile and Facebook are both good examples of this).
- There are already websites that can build a profile of you from an email address, depending on what you have published about yourself on-line. If you don’t believe me check out spokeo – it scares me!
Also, in the UK (and probably other parts of the world as well) unless you are ex-directory (which we recommend all teachers are) then your address and phone number (including your mobile phone number) are all stored online.
What is my point? Well, very soon you will be able to run an App on your phone , hold it up to a group of people in a room and facial recognition software will be able to recognize their face (cross checked against images that they have on-line) and augmented around the face on the phone screen will be links to the persons likely on-line presence. This will probably include things like Facebook profile, Slideshare account, Flickr page, newspaper reports, LinkedIN profile etc…
The data displayed might also include links to their home address and / or phone number. The App will be able to make educated guesses about some of these things because it will know where it is (eg: its geo-sensitive). For example, just because there are tens of ‘Ollie Bray’s’ living in the UK there is only one (to my knowledge) living in the Edinburgh / Lothian region of Scotland.
Now here is the really interesting thing, this fictitious App that I am describing relies on their being a picture of you on the Internet and then linking data to other on-line sources. When I describe this to people the first reaction I often get is, ‘thank goodness there are no pictures of me on-line’. Of course, these reactions are normally from people who don’t actually have a clue if they have pictures of themselves on-line or not. What they mean is that they haven’t put any pictures of themselves on-line but that doesn’t mean that other people haven’t. You see privacy doesn’t really exist anymore (I’ll come back to this in a separate post).
The TAT Augmented Reality App concept gives a pretty good demonstration of how this might actually work (YouTube Video below).
Of course all of this is fictitious at the moment, but all of the peaces are in place so it won’t be long (I think 12 – 24 months maybe less?). In fact MIT already have a working prototype.
So what does this mean for schools and education? A few things I think.
First of all, more than ever, we need to make sure that we educate our children and young people about what they put on-line. This has to include very young children (I’m talking from 3-11 year olds) and most importantly the teachers that care for them. For far to long we have concentrated our efforts surrounding the Internet safety and responsible use agenda on children that are already too old to really have any worthwhile impact. In short, rightly or wrongly we have been far to reactive and now with the technologies like I have described above just around the corner we need to be far more pro-active to ensure our children remain safe and secure.
I could be wrong, but I don’t think we can stop the above. In fact I think there will be a whole generation of Young People who tick the box (or just ignore the box) on their social networking profile and volunteer their data to be given away in the in the way I have described above.
What ever we do we need to make sure that we raise awareness for both children and education professionals.
What do you think?