The problem is, excessive media hype could end up damaging augmented reality's much-needed development, turning a possibly great future product into a barely useful current one.
Let's look at why augmented reality is a promising technology almost certain to underwhelm, especially after the hype treatment heaped on its promise by the mainstream medi
The Peak of Inflated Expectation
"Terminator vision" is no longer just in the realm of science fiction films. It's called augmented reality and it is on its way to a smartphone near you.
Complete Terminator vision would require bionic contact lenses … but from this month, anyone with an iPhone will be able to peer at the world…and see layered on their phone screen extra information about the physical things in front of them.
The target of The Independent's grade school crush is Layar, an iPhone application that uses GPS technology to place a handy overlay over buildings and streets when viewed through the iPhone's built-in camera. These overlays can point out historical information about a building, traffic information about an intersection, or whether you're going to be murdered.
The Independent is hardly the first mainstream news organization to hop on the augmented-reality-as-chic-tool bandwagon. We've covered instances of everyone from tech development firms to Starbucks and Esquire singing the praises of the still clunky technology.
The problem is, all of this hype could end up hurting augmented reality's development. Instead of refining and optimizing augmented reality, developers may rush out subpar, buggy products to meet spiking public interest in the complicated technology. That would be a shame, as augmented reality could be a truly revoltionary technology.
A Great Technology, But Not a Game Changer
We've been skeptical of augmented reality's ability to create an entirely new information economy, a claim put forth by Andreas Constantinou of Vision Mobile.
Much more likely is the possibility that augmented reality will find a niche in areas where precise instructions are required, which happens to be its current use in the European space program.
Far from just providing the height of a building, augmented reality could soon piggyback on increasing technology to make car windshields into accident-avoiding machines or highlight areas of cities with higher-than-average crime rates over a two-day span.
The iPhone could provide the initial immersion that moves augmented reality from curiosity to consumer essential. But that won't happen if consumers are left expecting "Terminator Vision," as one news outlet reported. The idea of augmented reality contact lenses is still in the hypothetical future – it won't be a launch feature.
Consumers would be wise to be wary of unnecessary media hype, and media outlets would do well to restrain the irrational exuberance that more often than not leads to a poor reception for an otherwise exceptional technology. Let's hope this isn't a replay of the boom-and-bust hype related to virtual worlds, or it may set augmented reality back years.