Random Jottings has a post about some new technology which is helping out troops in Iraq. This consists of a heads up display so that vehicle commanders can watch the physical terrain and electronic battle data at the same time.
This fits in nicely with something I’ve been wanting to write about for a long time but haven’t had the time to develop it properly. That is that I think that “enhanced reality” will be a bigger deal than “virtual reality”.
What is enhanced reality? It’s reality plus. In the example cited above, one plus is abstract battle data, such as the location of friendly units and possible enemy units. This is really just “dual monitor” sort of thing, where the commander can look at physical reality or abstract reality but has to switch between them. The driver system sounds more like what I expect longer term, which is look at the same reality both phyiscally and abstractly. For instance, there’s no fundamental reason that the commanders helmet couldn’t know where it is and which direction the commander is looking and drawing indicators against the image of the physical terrain that indicate units. The closest thing most people have experienced is a video game where objects in the game go around decorated with additional information (such as friend / foe). We’re seeing the first versions of that now.
This isn’t useful only for military situations, however. Imagine going to an amusement park and being able to look around to the park with the current location of your children / spouse highlighted for you. Or guidance arrows for you car in a huge parking lot. None of that requires any fundamental break throughs, just cheaper and better hardware along with ubiquitous wireless connectivity. There are many interesting side effects that perhaps I’ll try to explore in future posts (for instance, would keys disappear? Why use those, instead of sending encrypted messages to your car to lock / unlock, or just having it change state depending on how close you are? Would people start looking like wizards, using their hands to issue commands like “open door”?).