Tuesday Talk ~ Augmenting this reality


NZ developers Quiver created this tech that brings things alive on physical colouring pages

The problem with Augmented Reality is, simply put, processing power, but this is something all smart and tablet devices are steadily overcoming. That said, even ten years ago there were some genuinely interesting and effective examples of augmented reality. Indeed, it was the buzz back then, but what happened? Pokémon Go, if anything, is what put it back on the table.

Apple is taking it really seriously now, too, with the release of ARKit, which helps developers create augmented reality apps. Augmented reality places extra content over an overlay usually served by the device’s camera: hold your phone up, for example, over a street scene and see additional information overlaid, or a historic site as it looked in the 1880s. Or try new furniture in your own lounge, or impose fantastical storylines on existing scenes, or play dress-ups. Once again, apps like these were available ten years ago already. But releasing ARKit really boots along the whole franchise. New Zealand companies have long been strong in this realm too, for example Quiver which has been making strong, effective AR content from long before ARKit arrived.
(If you want to see if you can run ARKit on your device, here’s a list.)

Apple has made other interesting forays too, of course. Another developer kit is HomeKit, and we saw HomePod announced at WWDC. This little round speaker is easy to write off as ‘just another’ networked speaker, but we won’t really know its full potential until it’s released, of course. But what it will actually do is enable all your Apple devices: your iPads, iPhone, Watch and Mac, to be expressed audibly, tying them all together in useful ways. HomePod will also connect to door chimes, thermostats, garage doors, air conditioners, electrical outlets and more. Literally, you could soon be controlling everything you interact with via your iPhone in your pockets, and you may be able to say things like ‘Open front door’ to your HomePod as well. Perhaps most interestingly, HomePod will work with energy management technologies: imagine a future where your solar roof panels power all these devices and you interact with them via HomePod, including managing your Apple home battery (Tesla has already entered this field – a home battery stores the day’s solar energy so you can use it at night, and not just when the sun is shining).

So, what about Artificial Intelligence? A cuddly pod we can all understand: talk to it, and it responds, and plays music … Artificial Intelligence is another story. You know, it’s intelligent. I have always imagined, thanks to a steady diet of sci-fi growing up, that if anything with any power had the same or better intelligence the us, it would (very sensibly) want to get rid of us. Look at us! We’re idiots. We’re wrecking our home planet and voting for even worse idiots than us.

Am I being crazy? Facebook’s AI program developed its own language, and humans couldn’t understand it. This all went a bit sideways when Facebook’s scientists and engineers realized they couldn’t understand their own chatbots. So Facebook had to shut them down. Yikes!