Long ago, Ivan Sutherland created a head-mounted display for pilots. It was clunky and bulky, but for shooting your enemies it got the job done. Fast-forward 50 years and we’re now talking about using similar tech to shoot pool or possibly pick out the best hotties at the bar. It can’t be long before some reasonably OK-looking AR glasses are available on the open-market.
And they will be best, fastest, and most effective way to broadcast that you are a total narcissistic bastard. If you don’t believe me, allow me to set the scene for you. You’re at the café, chilling with your friend, and suddenly she smiled. You might be inclined to think that she just remembered some funny joke that she’s about to share with you. But that’s not what happened. Instead, her best bud just popped up on the augmented display. You can’t see it, but she’s now completely tuned you out and involved in a different conversation with someone on the other side of town.
Certainly today people will answer their phone when you’re hanging out, but at least you know you’ve been tuned out. With augmented reality, you can’t tell what the other person is looking at or hearing. We already see this in the de-socialization of bluetooth headsets. It’s considered serious uncool to sport one in social situations.
By engaging with AR wearables, you will be putting on a big red shirt that says “I am god”. I’m sure you’ll get a good reaction from those around you.
Evolution has hard-wired us to pay attention to who’s paying attention. Unlike virtually all other animals, we have whites of our eyes. We can establish precise eye contact from tens of meters. Eye contact is critical for communication, and can communicate information on its own. AR devices interfere with attention because they make it impossible to judge. Face to face communication suddenly becomes even more problematic than online chat or a phone call.
AR has enormous potential as a technology, and in specialized applications where it can free up hands and improve awareness, it’s going to be enormously successful. In general everyday life, though, wearing an augmented device is going to be social suicide. If you want to practice, just put on your bluetooth headset and go to a bar.