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The Augmented Reality Skyline

In mid December 2008, Nokia designer and human behavioural researcher Jan Chipchase posed the question on what the skyline of our towns and cities would look like under the tinting of augmented reality displays, filtering systems, and projection technologies.

He was referring of course, to the use of such technologies to create ever-present advertising, but the concept planted a seed. What will our skylines look like?

To be honest, that question is akin to asking "how long is a bit of string?" The answer is the same in both cases - as long as you want it to be. Augmented reality offers among many other blessings, the ability to have our personal skyline be anything we would like it to be. However, going further than the concept of simply overlaying any personal visual theme atop of buildings, what if the buildings themselves are designed with AR in mind?

As it stands, most large landmarks are different to one another, and this serves as a code to tell any AR display system where to center the imagery. However, as companies begin to wake up to the fact that AR can be used to enhance structures, and turn them into active, or even interactive assets for promoting the company philosophy or image to the general public, we are going to see deliberate architectural attempts to counteract the ability of AR to overlay the building with a mountain, waterfall, rainbow, or even the illusion of open air.

The most effective way of doing this would be to change the building's 'code' or the visual image it presents, making it harder to lock onto as a discrete object. The number of forms this camouflage could take are as numerous as the number of overlays imaginable. Windows that serve as interactive displays on the outside, display canvasses that run the length and height of the building, holographic projection onto abutting transparent screens, designed to change the structure of the building on a daily basis; all are possible, are extremely likely.

So what is our future skyline going to look like in an augmented reality world?

Extremely chaotic and continually crawling in the peripheral vision.

Sounds lovely.

Further Reading

Will our skyline change with Augmented Reality and intelligent buildings?

Staff Comments


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