The next day I read what might seem to be an unrelated article on augmented reality vs. virtual reality, and how the former will have more impact on everything from advertising to education. The idea being that augmented reality uses technology to place a digital interface over a familiar physical environment. Say you walk into a grocery store wearing augmented reality glasses and you can see the daily specials overlaid on each aisle. Virtual reality, on the other hand, is more about immersing you in a simulated 3-D environment. You might walk into a similar grocery story with virtual reality glasses, but it could be on Mars and your checker could be a three-headed alien. There’s obviously a fine line between the two.
So my brain went to work on its own concept-building path and put the brain article together with the one on augmented reality…and I scared myself. What if, I wondered, we become so dependent on augmented reality to keep us informed and entertained that our brains become overwhelmed and unable to navigate an augmented world? It can’t put two and two together quickly enough to form a new concept because there’s too much information. It gets five…or it gives up and freezes.
Brands haven’t done this kind of connective thinking yet. They’re looking at augmented reality as a way to make everything from shopping to movie going to travel a more immersive and personal experience. And they should. You see a movie poster and your augmented reality glasses show you a trailer before you even set foot in a theater. You go to Paris and the same glasses start feeding you a stream of information about the city, landmarks, and entertainment venues. Sounds interesting, right?
Since we’re just now starting to learn how the brain is affected by our constant attachment to smartphones, laptops and other “blue screens,” no one knows yet what living in an augmented world will do. Maybe our brains will adapt and rewire themselves to take in the additional information of such a world. Perhaps the brilliant scientists at Carnegie Mellon will find more proof of the ability of the brain to adapt to what will be an even more continuous onslaught of information.
Until then, I may stick with the less augmented world, and be content to get my information through my unaugmented devices at hand. That’s a concept my brain can handle for now.