A few months ago I came across Jido Maps, a startup enabling persistent AR. While I'm not exactly sure yet what could act as an adoption catalyst for the developer community to build persistent AR apps (perhaps another Pkemon Go or equivalent?) I do believe that AR will inevitably transform the city environment.
But whereas traditional, physical advertising (and indeed every other physical object in the city) is limited in that it can only ever be one instance of a billboard, neon sign, or display in a shop window, with AR these advertisements can be individually target in physical space just as they are online today. This idea is not new, back in 2007 (!) Microsoft patented "Personal augmented reality advertising" - see below for an image from that patent.
Taking this to the extreme, we could be walking together through the city (with some sort of AR type contact lenses - hopefully soon!) and our experiences could be very different. I'm interested in exploring what will happen in this "hyper-unique", fragmented cultural environment. We've already seen how dangerous this is online, will it be equally troubling in a augmented offline world?
The beginnings of this dangerous world were implicitly foreshadowed in "Cellular Convergence and the Death of Privacy" by Stephen B. Wicker, published by the Cambridge University Press. The book describes the (forgotten narrative) of how the explosive adoption of the smartphone (by users and developers) created a single failure point for privacy (that is to say, one device had data on every aspect of your life.) What will happen when we have, as Steve Gu at AiFi phrased it so elegantly: pervasive, perceptual computing?
To me the technology underlying this "pervasive, perceptual computing has already been discovered and the applications that could run on top of this platform could save lives, save money and entertain. It seems inevitable that it will be deployed and adopted (persistent AR, fragmented and hyper-personalized city environments and pervasive, perceptual computing.) In this world therefore, the most key questions are those that are being explored around data ownership and monetization.
From a technology perspective, the decentralization and self-sovereignty movements being enabled by blockchain technology provides an enticing potential solution to many of these problems. From a legal and social responsibility perspective it's hard to look past the incredible content coming out of the Yale Law School Information Society Project. Despite running for a long time, Jack Balkin's ISP seems so perfectly timely for the questions we are currently raising today.
I don't know what the right answers are, but I am definitely interested in finding them.