Mar 6 2011
There’s one eventuality that we all know is coming- that computers will one day take over the earth, becoming our cruel overlords. Don’t believe me? The evidence is all around us. Whereas cars once worked solely with gears, grease, and pistons, now they’re dependant upon computers. Almost all jobs that used to be done by hand now revolve around the computer. The first thing we do when we get to the office is turn the computer on. Some of us don’t even turn them off. No doubt this is in fear of retribution, or a hopeful attempt to appease our coming masters. Every aspect of our lives is dominated by some portion of this vast army of computers.
Of course, like many takeovers, most don’t see it coming. Sometimes the unsuspecting victims are lulled into welcoming the coming onslaught with open arms. In this case the term used to progress the conquest of all mankind is Augmented Reality. Augmented reality is when our real world experience is augmented by computer generated sensory input. When you watch an American football game and see the yellow line to designate the first down, that’s augmented reality. Or during a swimming telecast they may display a line on the screen indicating what the world record pace is, you have entered into the world of augmented reality. These small conveniences, beacons of our impending doom, give new perspective and information for our every day experiences. The slow encroachment of computers and the augmented reality they bring is devised by some of the most antisocial and menacing members of our society- Computer Scientists.
Making no effort to fight the inevitable, is Virtual Tags. Virtual Tags is an iPhone app that brings augmented reality to your phone. Specifically it’s an app that allows you to leave virtual tags anywhere in the world. These can be left behind for others to enjoy, in blissful naivety of the coming oppressive regime. The virtual tags form clouds, which can be clicked on by others to display the messages left behind by others. These are the real life “yellow lines” that will help highlight interesting or unique places.
Less than a year ago I found myself wandering the streets of Paris. As anyone who’s been there, the streets of Paris are well designed only in their disparity and incongruent nature. It’s easy, if not fun, to get lost there. With every new turn you find interesting shops, stores, statues, or yet another arch. The Arc de Triomphe is the by no means the only arch in Paris. The town is full of lesser but still impressive arches. When you aren’t bumping into yet another arch, there are many more quaint locations to discover. I recall one street I found the most enchanting outdoor market. It had wine, salami, cheese, chocolate, pastries, and of course some drunk guy attempting to sober up on the sidewalk. It was quite a romantic time. This would be the perfect place to add virtual tags so others could live vicariously through my experience.
The application works by tracking your location with your phone’s GPS. From there you can add georeferenced messages whenever and wherever you like. Situations where you might use them are romantic encounters, your favorite spot to hunt for mushrooms, situations where governments are oppressing the freedom of speech, or general commerce to highlight a favorite store.
The end is coming. Soon we will elect a computer as president of the nations, to command the world in its algorithmic wisdom. Until then, we can enjoy the augmented reality that technology provides us. Whether you find it an omen of the technological apocalypse, or a clever way to spread virtual messages, Virtual Tags is a new and interesting way to share and learn location based messages with the world.