I was listening to a podcast yesterday about Augmented Reality (AR) and the role it will play in our lives in the future. Similar to Virtual Reality (VR) AR involves wearing a set of goggles that allows you to see things that aren’t really there. The difference between AR and VR is that while VR shows you a view of an environment that doesn’t exist, AR allows you to see your actual environment, but also shows you things or people that aren’t physically present.
For example, I could be wearing AR goggles and look down at my wrist and see a wrist watch, even though I’m not actually wearing a watch, or I could see a flat screen TV or computer screen on the wall that isn’t really present. In addition to objects, you would also be able to see people, who were also wearing AR goggles, as if they were in the same spaces as you, even if they are miles, countries, or even continents away. It sounded pretty amazing!
The host of the podcast went on to talk about the application of such technology and how it could transform everything from how people attend conferences, train for skills, and even attend Thanksgiving dinners with family. In his opinion, this technology was about 3 years away. He made that comment that when this technology becomes available, it will very shortly begin impacting all of our lives. One comment he made was that once this technology is mainstream, we will likely feel naked if we leave the house without our AR goggles.
That last part struck me, and has haunted me to some degree since hearing it. I think AR and VR technology will be amazing and will have significant application and promise to improve many aspects of our lives. However, I also see how it can further isolate us from one another as humans, much like our smartphones have the capacity to do today. If we as users of this technology are not wise enough to put healthy boundaries around its use, I can see how we could easily become a society that is more focused and interested in the things in our lives that are NOT real, while neglecting the things (and people) that are.
Let’s take a lesson from the adoption and impact the smartphone has had on cultures today. As new technologies become mainstream, let’s be aware to set boundaries around their use; boundaries that are designed to maintain, and hopefully strengthen, the relationships we already have with those around us. It would be a shame to think that we would rather gravitate toward a piece of technology over interacting with people that are present in our lives. But as history has shown us, if left unchecked, that is exactly how we would lean.