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Summary:

A startup called Atheer unveiled a platform for superimposing the information form the web on the real world using the cloud and a gesture-interface. But the Atheer glasses raises question about the future of design.

I’m a big believer that the future of the web is taking the information and relationships that we currently have online and making them part of our real lives. Not through putting screens in more places, but by bringing the digital life seamlessly into our real ones.

That’s why the augmented reality platform by a startup called Atheer is so interesting. It purports to overlay the internet onto your real world, and lets you call up and view online information using natural gestures or spoken commands. The startup showed off a pair of glasses running the platform at the D11 conference Thursday. Atheer co-founder and chief executive Soulaiman Itani explains in the article in Phys:

“This is like putting the Xbox and the Kinect and the Internet in your pocket running on a battery.”

The glasses and the technology that Atheer is using could be complimentary or the next iteration of what Google  is trying to do with Glass. Yes, that interaction is still more oriented at delivering information via a screen, as opposed to making information fit with the world around you. Google Goggles, the service that let you use your smartphone camera and Google’s computer vision to find out information about landmarks and places, might be a better example of how the Atheer system is supposed to work.

Regardless, such systems are coming, and developers and designers need to start thinking about how we convey information. Think about how long it took for people to recognize the shift in web design from the desktop and laptop to mobile. With wearables we open that entire field up to a greater degree.

Instead of just thinking about screen size, context will take a greater role. Not just based on location and device, but on the information itself that users need. Why should you ever get the weather on a screen if you could instead have a shelf in your closet slide out with the appropriate gear for the day’s forecast? Why send a calendar reminder to a screen on a phone, when making a wristband vibrate or making your car honk (I personally need this to make it to meetings on time) might be more effective?

This may seem a bit far-fetched, but the challenge of Google Glass isn’t just about privacy or distracted driving, but understanding what information fits best in the context of glasses. We may think we want it all, but a little restraint and thoughtful design is going to make the integration of technology into more of our devices and deeper into our lives more than a tech gimmick, but something we can’t understand how we lived without.

  1. As you point out context is not as easy as people might think.
    Context is not a bolt on to mobile location, just like the Web was not a bolt on to networking. Just ask Novell, Lotus, MSFT, Sun and others.
    The web had html as structure and links as data binding, context? Google talks a lot about context, but hasn’t provided any structure nor binding. Maybe some magic happens when one uses location? I personally use space time(ask Om for details).

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