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augmented reality, Future Trends, Mobile Web

The future of social networking – a concept investigation with Augmented Reality

Here are some concept designs that myself and ace designer Philip Langley put our heads together to create. It’s an investigation into how social networking may work in the future, focusing on mobile and augmented reality (AR).

Our investigations were inspired in particular by these brilliant (AR) concept drawings which I often use in presentations I give. There are some crude, but fascinating, implementations around too that inspired us.

After some brainstorming and quite a few mockups, we came up with the below. Admittedly AR is the new hype. But you can see how valuable (and scary) this could be when applied to a social networking paradigm. It assumes amazing resolutions, facial and object recognition, and more accurate GPS — none of these far off.

(NOTE: I’ve had quite a few requests regarding useage rights of these images. You’re welcome to use them in any form, so long as you credit and link back where feasible!)


[ Larger image (95k) | Hi Res image (8mb) ] Imagine holding up your phone or other digital device against a person you’ve just met or passing by. You’d instantly have information returned about that person within seconds, gleaned from an automatic web, public profile and social network search. You’d discover common friends, talking points — and then have the ability to add him/her to your network. Using a semantic scan, you’d discover negative or positive comments on Google or elsewhere relating to this individual. (Don’t mention that job at Microsoft or that time in Europe!) It would be instant insight into the guy standing right in front of you.


[ Larger image (86k) | Hi Res image (7mb)] Tapping into public databases and directories, discover who lives where and if and how you are connected — then call them, email them, add them to your network right then and there. Get other news about the suburb and other socio-economic information. If they’re part of your network — what are they saying about their suburb or the best pizza joint in the area?


[ Larger image (102k) | Hi Res image (6mb) ] You’d be able to hold up your phone in a crowded room and work out who is connected to who. You could instantly gauge your primary and secondary networks and work out instantly who you should chat to, what the conversation points are — and who you should avoid. Where are the cliques. Whose an outsider? What’s the buzz. We’ll never forget a name again.

Goodbye to privacy
Privacy is already an issue of concern now and for our digital future. We’re still working out the ethical and moral framework around this. We may even see a backlash from society angry at this intrusion.

It may however end up being ok because you will (mostly) be in control — you could refuse access to SN’s, don’t tweet, assume personas etc. But there will be information about you that you won’t be able to control too. There’ll be inevitable abuse and misuse of the information, which is probably manageable.

However more importantly — from a privacy perspective almost everyone will be mostly in the same boat. We may evolve into a society that’s highly transparent and accountable. Don’t know whether to laugh or cry.*

* UPDATE: @pluronymous in the comments below correctly pointed out that there’s more to this. I’m often (rightly) accused of neglecting the dystopian view. It may very well be too idealistic to suggest that a loss of privacy as a result of the web and the social networking revolution would be ok because it would mean we’d evolve into a “transparent” and “accountable” society. While persuasive, this may be idealistic. We could also in turn become a paranoid and distrustful society, always worrying about what our friends and neighbours will find out about us from a web or social network search.

I do think it’s comforting that: 1) to some extent you’re in control by limiting your profile information on most networks and failing that the “delete” button looms large; and 2) everyone will mostly be in the same boat. But then again there’s always going to be information outside our control…

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