Interview with Bruce Sterling: Augmented Reality and Transitioning out of the Old-Fashioned "Legacy Internet"

It is just over a week until Augmented Reality Event, and I know there are a lot of people, including me, who are totally psyched to see what unfolds there this year. Bruce Sterling, Vernor Vinge, Blaise Aguera Y Arcas, Jaron Lanier, Will Wright, Marco Tempest and Frank Cooper will join 107 speakers from 76 augmented reality companies on a single stage to tell a momentous story of a technology of our time (see here for more from Bruce Sterling on AR & my previous post).

As Bruce Sterling points out, in the interview below, Augmented Reality is “truly a child of the twenty-teens, a genuine digital native,” and one visible indication that:

..the Internet really could look like a “legacy.” The Legacy Internet as an old-fashioned, dusty, desk-based place best left to archivists and librarians, while the action is out on the streets.”

Interview with Bruce Sterling by Tish Shute and Ori Inbar

Tish Shute: As you so memorably put it, “AR is a technovisionary dream come true – something really rare, and you have to be really patient for those….”

What is best and worst, in your view, about the way Augmented Reality technovisionary dream is coming true and emerging to flourish in the wild?

Bruce Sterling: The best part is that AR is truly happening and is a lot of fun, and the worst part is that it’s happening in a Depression. If AR had broken loose in the dotcom days when cash flew around like soap bubbles, man, that would have been psychedelic.

AR that is even more of-our-time than “social media.” AR has arisen directly from modern technical factors that just didn’t use to exist. It’s made from shiny new parts, and is truly a child of the twenty-teens, a genuine digital native. It’s a little kid and it has to walk before it can run, but it’s great to see it walking.

Tish Shute: As Jesse Schell pointed out last year at ARE2010, “The whole point of AR is to see things from a different point of view…How can there be a more powerful art form than one that actually changes what you see?” What do you feel will be the most impactful application of AR in people’s everyday lives?

Bruce Sterling: I’m all for impact, but it’s pretty clear that the people who would weep for joy to have Augmented Reality are people whose reality is already damaged. People who need reality augmented as a prosthetic, in other words, so that they can achieve an “everyday life.” This is like the impactful but underappreciated role of the Internet in the lives of people who’ve been shut-in. If you’re laid-up in a hospital bed, a laptop is a revolution in convalescence.

But that kind of “impact” doesn’t sound too exciting or too profitable. My guess would be that the biggest arena for “impactful AR” would be augmenting cityscapes for foreign people who can’t speak the local language, can’t read the signs, and lack time to learn the local reality. Imagine, say, the Brazilian overlay for Moscow. You could show up, read your native Brazilian overlay of that city, do your business, eat, sleep, buy, leave, and scarcely “be in Moscow” at all. Constructed right, the AR Brazilian Moscow might even be a better Moscow — a Moscow that Russians themselves would pay to visit.

Tish Shute: You pointed out last year, in your opening keynote for ARE2010, that less immersive forms of AR have their own merits. We are still not seeing much “head mounted display weirdness” yet, but many other forms of AR are emerging – mobile, webcam, projected video, sonic augmented reality, even sticky light. You noted, practically everything that AR is involved in is a transitional technology. But since you spoke last year at ARE2010, which of these transitional technologies have shown the most promise for AR?

Bruce Sterling: It’s got to be handsets. Smartphones. The stats there are just amazing. The smartphone biz makes the personal computer business look like a Victorian railroad. When I read a guy like Tomi Ahonen, who talks about transitioning out of the old-fashioned “Legacy Internet,” that idea is startling. But AR is one visible indication that the Internet really could look like a “legacy.” The Legacy Internet as an old-fashioned, dusty, desk-based place best left to archivists and librarians, while the action is out on the streets.

Tish Shute: This year we have seen gestural interfaces go mainstream. What are the most interesting directions for gestural interfaces that you have seen emerge in recent months?

Bruce Sterling: To me, the most “interesting” part is seeing people do gestural stuff in public. William Gibson, my fellow author, observes that cellphones have stolen the gestural language of cigarettes. There’s lots of fidgeting, box tapping, ash-swiping, slipping boxes in and out of pockets… People quickly learn to do that without thinking twice, and they forget how weird it looks. It’s “design dissolving in behavior,” as Adam Greenfield puts it.

The gestural hack scene for the Kinect has been amazing. It’s like watching 1950s Beatnik dancing go mainstream.

Tish Shute: You have observed that Augmented Reality is Glocal which not only gives us different flavors of augmented experience but is “a departure from earlier models of tech startups, where you usually have like three hippies in a local garage. Now you’ve got German-American-Korean outfits like Metaio, and Total Immersion has a Russian affiliate. They’re inherently multinational, both inside the company and out.” What flavors of glocalness do you hope/expect to see at Augmented Reality Event this year.

Bruce Sterling: I’d be pretty happy to see some AR input from Brazil, India, and South Africa. I seem to be picking up a lot of followers in my Twitter stream from those locales. If I saw some Augmented Bollywood Reality, that would pretty much make my day.

Ori Inbar: What sessions will you go to at ARE this year? Who do you want to meet at ARE 2011?

Bruce Sterling: I make it my business to hang out with artists, but I’m hoping to drill down more on the technical aspects. For instance, where exactly are the bottlenecks in building animated augments? It looks like we’re about a sneeze away from jamming some crude Hanna-Barbera cartoons into real spaces. But the devil is in the details there.

Ori Inbar: Your commentary about the evolution of the AR industry over the years had significant focus on style. Is the AR industry dressed to kill yet? Any glimpses of promise in that direction?

Bruce Sterling: I’m not “pro-style” in every possible aspect of life, but as an Augmented Reality critic, it’s clear to me that if you claim to “augment” reality, then you should work hard to augment it — struggle to make it better. Otherwise you might as well call yourself “Defaced Reality,” or even “3D Spam.” When I see that kind of crudity and carelessness in AR, I’m gonna call people out on it. I know there will be the AR equivalent of cheesy billboards and gang graffiti, but I never much cared for those, either.

The industry’s videos have improved radically in the past year and a half. It used to be all about “look at my grainy, shaky handheld video of my cool new AR hack,” but nowadays the biz has really pulled its socks up.

If AR is about “experience design,” as I think it basically is, then eventually, as a matter of intellectual consistency and professional pride, everything you create will be considered part of “the experience.” That’s the industry’s way forward — that’s what it would do if it was grown-up.

AR people already look better than most similar geeks in the gaming business, and some day, I really do believe that augmentation people will become glamorous. They won’t be supermodels, but they’ll be about as chic as, say, professional set designers. Because AR is set design, in a way; it’s real-time interactive set-design for three-D spaces.

Ori Inbar: In the Layar Launch in 2009 you said “it’s the dawn of AR…”, at ARE 2010, you followed up on the theme saying “it’s 9am in the AR industry.” What time is it now?

Bruce Sterling: I’d be guessing it’s around 9:30 AM, but come on, that’s just a metaphor! ARE we all gonna blow off at 4:30 PM and have a beer, or is AR one of those cruel tech startups where nobody ever gets a personal life?

Ori Inbar: Are you reading any new fictional literature about AR that inspires you? And/or What interesting design fictions for AR have you come across recently?

Bruce Sterling: Well, I’m always interested in creative people who just plain make stuff up. Because that’s why I commonly do myself. The stuff that “inspires” me is usually stuff that I just didn’t expect to see. But when I don’t expect it, that usually means I wasn’t paying enough attention. I plan to pay a lot of attention to AR this year.

I’m not sure it makes a lot of sense to write fiction nowadays “about AR,” because it’s no longer a fictional topic. It’s become like writing fiction “about cinema.” You can write good fiction about someone who works in cinema, but not fiction about cinema itself. AR is not sci-fi “Augmented Reality” any more, it’s become a real-world phenomenon, a new industry of real augmentation.

With that said, I must remark that I sit up straight whenever I see Marco Tempest do stuff. Magicians are all about mystery and wonder. You wouldn’t see a magician, say, using AR to work an assembly line, or re-order library books, or find a pizza joint in Barcelona. And that’s great. Marco is always gonna do something freaky and out-there, and even though he’s a tech magician, it’s never about the tech first. It’s always about his ingenuity in finding new ways to employ new tools in creating a magical experience for his audience.

Marco’s not an entrepreneur, he’s not gonna revolutionize people’s daily lives or invent Web 4.0, but even if AR becomes “old hat” some day, it’s never going to be old hat when he’s doing it. The guy is a pro, and I’m quite the fan.

Magic Projection Live @ TEDxTokyo 2010 from Marco Tempest on Vimeo.

ARE2010 Keynote by Jesse Schell: Augmented Reality Will Define the 21st century

Jesse Schell’s closing keynote at the Augmented Reality Event (2-3 June, 2010 – Santa Clara California) was thought provoking, inspiring, entertaining, and made us all see augmented reality in new eyes… A must see for all augmented reality enthusiasts, as well as those who don’t get what’s all the excitement about.

Here are select quotes:
“The whole point of AR is to see things from a different point of view…How can there be a more powerful art form than one that actually changes what you see?”
“Augmented Reality will be one of the things that fundamentally define the 21st century”
“Doctor: My dear friend, only the gods see everything. X: My dear Dr., I  am closing in on the gods…”(From “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes” movie)
“You guys are going to put it together…and then everybody is going to be like, oh my god we are freaking naked, all this information about me is out there…I had security through obscurity, but not anymore…”
“The internet allowed us to think with shared memory…Augmented Reality will allow us to see with shared eyes.”

The Augmented Reality Event 2010 – Seeing – Keynote by Jesse Schell

ARE 2010 Keynote by Will Wright: Brilliant Inspiration for the Augmented Reality Community

Here is the next installment of videos from the Augmented Reality Event. This time it’s Will Wright’s inspirational talk – targeted at the Augmented reality developer community.

Will Wright’s speeches are always fascinating – and this one ranks way up there as one of his best:

Augmented Reality can make us more aware of our immediate environment rather than distract us from it…there is value in proximity information…tap into the collective commune memory…full situational awareness is what I am dreaming of…

The Augmented Reality Event 2010 – Keynote by gaming legend Will Wright from Ori Inbar on Vimeo.

Coming up more augmented reality goodness from the Augmented Reality Event 2010…

ARE 2010 Keynote by Bruce Sterling: Bake a Big Pie!

are 2010 is over. It was a blast. Many thanks to 400 AR enthusiasts who joined us for 2 days of AR goodness.

Special thanks to our 90 speakers from 40 augmented reality companies, our exhibitors, sponsors, and above all – for Qualcomm.

For those who weren’t as fortunate, and couldn’t join the event – here are some of the highlights.

Bruce Sterling’s keynote (aka the prophet of the augmented reality industry) opened it up with a bang:

“It’s 9 am in the augmented reality industry…without vision people perish…it’s your chance to bake a big pie before you start slicing it up…it’s time for you to get dressed…good luck to you, I’ll be watching you”

The Augmented Reality Event: Bruce Sterling’s keynote from Ori Inbar on Vimeo.

More later…

ARE 2010 Starts Today!

Most speakers and attendees are already here. The energy is high. The anticipation is huge.

It’s so great to see practically EVERYBODY in the augmented reality world at the same physical location.

Almost 400 people have already registered – and walk-ins are most welcome!

Come and register at the event itself. We will honor your discount codes.

A few last minute changes to the schedule are recorded on the schedule-at-a-glance on the Schedule page.

Looking forward to a great event.

I ARE here!

What to Expect from ARE 2010 Keynote Speakers

Chris Grayson from Gigantico – a media partner and a good friend of the augmented reality event – has put together this cool promo for what to expect from are 2010 keynote speakers: Bruce Sterling, Blaise Aguera y Arcas, Will Wright, and Jesse Schell.

If you are planning to attend – consider it as 15 minutes of really fun homework for the event.


I bet they will blow our minds next week!

ARE2010 Announces $10,000 Prize for Startup Launch Pad Winner, and "a lot of respect" for The Auggies Winner

The ARE Chairs and Qualcomm are delighted to share with you two important announcements:

1) Nominations for the Start up Launch Pad hosted by VentureBeat have been selected:
Whistlebox (Chas Mastin)
YOUReality (Michelle Fallon)
WhereMark (Ken Carter)
Iryss (Dave Elchoness)
e23 (Joe Dunn)
After lunch, five startups will present their business models and AR products for 5 minutes each in front of a panel which will include: Cole Van Nice (VC at CVP), Jay Wright (Qualcomm), Cory Ondrejka (cofounder of Second Life) – and moderated by JP Manninen (VentureBeat.)
Winner award: “ARE Best startup” and a $10,000 prize courtesy of Qualcomm!
2) Nominations for The Auggies demo competition have been selected as well:
TagDis (Joe Dunn, e23)
Retail Visualization (Michelle Fallon, YOUReality)
Do/Crew (Chas Mastin, Whistlebox)
Recognizr (James Haliburton, TAT)
Tagwhat (Dave Elchoness, Iryss)
Zombie Shoot AR (Peter Meier, Metaio)
Kamra AR Browser (Alex Hill, Georgia Tech)
Wikitude Drive (Martin Lechner, Mobilizy)
Touching Augmented Reality (Yvan Franco, YDreams)
Sam Fisher AR Game (Claire Boonstra, Layar)
AR-assisted panorama generation (Rob Grant, Occipital)
The World of Sekai Camera (Takahito Iguchi, Tonchidot)
During the first evening of ARE2010, a dozen teams will get 4 minutes each to present their products on stage and compete for the coolest live AR demo. A panel with Bruce Sterling, Jesse Schell, and Mark Billinghurst, will comment on the demos – American Idol-style. Winners will be determined by the audience and receive the prestigious “Auggies Award” + an Android phone courtesy of Qualcomm.
For those wondering about the difference between these activities:
The Start up Launch Pad is all about business and is intended for start ups seeking investment. The Auggies, on the other hand, is for everyone (artists, individuals as well as established companies), and it’s all about a cool demo to impress the audience; more fun than business, and definitely a powerpoint free zone!
Special thanks for Jay Wright (Qualcomm) for the generous prizes.
Looking forward to stellar performances; the stakes are high – may the best win!

Want a free pass to ARE2010? Apply for a job as Event staff!

2 weeks to go!
ARE2010, the first Augmented Reality Event initiated by AR industry insiders is looking for event staff to help ensure a superior experience for speakers and attendees.
If you qualify, you’ll receive a free pass to the event (a $395 value)!
Job requirements:
- dedicate 2 half days during the 2 day event
- Help manage a conference room by performing tasks such as attendee assistance in the seating area, time keeping, seamless transition between speakers, feedback collection, etc.
- be friendly to attendees, speakers, and staff members
- and of course you have to be passionate about augmented reality ;)
Apply Today!  Job openings are limited.
To apply – send email to [email protected] with “Event Staff” in the title

Preview of ARE 2010 Schedule – Packed with Augmented Reality Goodness!

Folks, here is the almost final schedule for the Augmented Reality Event. Surely a must-attend event for the Augmented Reality (AR) community, and anyone interested in learning about AR.

The 2 day event will feature multiple general sessions for all attendees (in turquoise) and 3 parallel tracks for Business, Technology, and Production.

Speakers and times may vary.

If you are interested in participating in any of these activities – let us know today!

1) “Startup Launch pad” – Five AR startups present their business models and products in front of an expert panel: VCs, Entrepreneurs, and industry luminaries – hosted by a major media outfit. Winner receives: “ARE Best startup prize” (to be announced.) Submit your proposal here and add: “Startup Launch Pad” in the title.
2) “The Auggies” – Teams get 5 minutes each to present on stage and compete for the coolest live AR demo. A panel with Bruce Sterling, Jesse Schell, Mark Billinghurst and a Jay Wright, will comment on the demos – American Idol-style. Winners will be determined by the audience and receive the prestigious “Auggies Award.” (to be announced.) Submit your proposal here and add “Auggies” in the title.
3) ARE Press Conference – If you are planning to announce a new product or service – secure your spot in the press conference that will kick off the event. Submit your proposal here and add: “Press Conference” in the title.
4) Exhibition and Sponsorships – A small number of booths is still available in the exhibition hall ($995 for 10’x10′). Grab them while they last!

Don’t wait, register Today!

Gaming Legend Will Wright Joins Bruce Sterling as ARE2010 Keynote Speaker

Industry Leading Presenters Draw Attendees from Around the World to Augmented Reality Event

San Francisco, CA March 15, 2010 — Augmented Reality Event (ARE), the first commercial event initiated by industry leaders dedicated to the business of augmented reality, is now accepting registrations for the June-2-3 conference at Santa Clara Convention Center.

Confirmed speakers for ARE2010 include experts on the cutting edge of augmented reality, presenting sessions perfect for startups, investors, mobile companies, and developers as well as clients in entertainment, media, education, healthcare, government, tourism, etc,– anyone looking to leverage augmented reality to drive their businesses.

“We have quickly lined-up the strongest bench of industry experts ever to gather on the topic of advancing augmented reality,” said Sean Lowery, event director of ARE. “The impressive line-up is creating a stir and attracting registrants from around the world to the AR event of the year.”

In addition to AR prophet Bruce Sterling and gaming legend Will Wright, ARE has secured notable presenters for more than 30 sessions organized into business, technology and production tracks. Attendees will have the opportunity to present ideas to a panel of investors and attend an ARt Gala, were the audience will participate in live ARt performances with leading industry companies and artists.

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