My gut feeling is that (spatial-audio) augmented reality (AR) is going to go the way of virtual reality… it’ll dribble on a bit then fizzle out. AR has the taste of that wow factor feature that never really delivers, that’s not actually used nor useful in a day-to-day sense. Or at least not in the context it is currently presented in. I believe that spatial-audio augmented reality is a technology with a context problem.
Microsoft’s Kinect interface is demonstrating that virtual-reality is not about a second-life (.com)… its about mapping the human body to ‘digital otherness’. Its about parameter mapping in the digital sphere, where the parameters describe our physical bodies… and so the physical body is cast into other worlds. Its not about sitting in a chair and having an ‘online presence’ move whilst you sit still. No no …. its the other way around … its about driving your body to move in entirely new ways, because it is mapped to new worlds. Jaron Lanier, smart guy, says it best:
The most important thing about virtual reality isn’t the idea that you’re seeing this dramatic 3D thing. It’s that you, yourself change. That you experience yourself in a different way than you ever have before.
Apple is projecting that spatial-audio can be used as a navigational device. It *might* actually turn out to be the right context for contemporary spatial-audio technology (and augmented reality). Instead of seeing a mouse pointer move around on screen, you hear it move around your head. The iPod device is the mouse .. it knows which way it is pointing… and so it knows how to change the sound, as the user moves it, to make it seem as though it is heard up on the right, or down low, or directly in front (using HRTFs ofcourse). So you can control a mouse, and know where it is … without a screen! All you need is a pointing device with gyroscope and some headphones … in other words, all you need is an iPod. I wonder who thought of that at Apple, they deserve a raise.
Shame its a patent … I wonder if there’s evidence of prior art in the academic sphere?