Beautiful Nightmare: Matsuda’s Augmented Reality Visualization

Augmented (hyper)Reality: Domestic Robocop from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

London architecture student Keiichi Matsuda has posted a brilliant and scary visualization of the near future of augmented reality. At the beginning of the 106 second video, a consumer’s Advertising Level is set to maximum; his visual field (we assume a heads-up display, maybe built into eyewear) is filled with “rich media advertising,” overlapping animated logos and audio pitches for hundreds of products. A meter on the Level control indicates how much he’s being paid to watch all those ads.

He brings down the Advertising Level just a bit and the ads are tuned down to virtual billboards placed on the walls of his kitchen. To make a cup of tea, he taps a Tetley logo and a synthetic voice talks him through tea making, pointing out the kettle and the refrigerator with AR markers.

Before grabbing the milk, he checks in with a gesture to his social media feeds, displayed in 3D over a virtual meadow. While the tea is brewing, a biomonitor indicates it’s time to purge some liquid waste, so he sets the Advertising Level to maximum to make a few pennies while he pees.

The nightmare is that AR will be consumed by advertising, specifically location-based, real-time, contextual, behaviorally targeted permission marketing. Most of today’s best AR is trying to sell something up close and personal. As the tech gets smarter and stronger, the temptation to spam will expand exponentially.

(Matsuda shows a slightly scratchy, inconsistent AR feed. The overlays sometimes drop out as the display system loses synch or maybe picks up some RF interference, and the images lack opacity and resolution. I’ve always mistrusted the Star Trek holodeck stories in which people can’t tell the difference between virtual and real. I’ll bet we’ll always be able to know when we’re being augmented … at least I hope so.)