A while back I was contracted to write a chapter for a textbook in philosophy of technology, on the theme of video games and virtual reality. Owing to publishing lead times, the book is due out next April, but my chapter has been drafted and revised already, back when it was clear I ought to mention Augmented Reality but the latest topical example was Google Glass. Just in time to be overtaken by the next big thing...
Pokemon Go, as we all know, is just the beginning when it comes to Augmented Reality, which is on the cusp of upending our lives as we know it. It won’t be long before everything from healthcare to education to city planning is affected – and you can be sure that advertisers are already looking at ways to take advantage. What is clear is that governments haven’t got a clue how to handle it. If a virtual Speero egg in a Hindu temple is enough to cause a lawsuit, what about adverts for alcohol, or dating sites, or porn? How are the courts going to deal with copyright infringement, or the safety of AR tourist attractions, or taxing products that do not actually exist in the real world? It’s not an issue of if, but when, and the default approach of a blanket ban will just force a budding new enterprise underground, where it will remain a risk to public security.
Still, there are consoling thoughts: I can remember the first VR boom, and the bubble of interest in virtual worlds, and I duly made it plain in the chapter that grand visions of the technological future come and go, and that I have no certain idea whether AR will turn out to be another fad of its day. VR has its second wind, but as I once wrote elsewhere, the future often appears to be bearing down upon us faster than it really is; though in this case it did come faster than the speed of print.
Update: I got to check a draft at a later stage of editing, so the problem will be averted after all, albeit without a treatment of the questions above.