Dressing in Layers and the Digital Real World Experience


In San Francisco, we dress in layers. The temperature, in fact, the entire external experience, can shift radically every few blocks, from blinding sun to impenetrable fog, and local denizens must be prepared.

This came to mind as I pondered the increasing interest being displayed here in the Bay Area around technologies that laminate new information or effects onto the real world as experienced through a smart phone or other digital device.

The common name for this phenomenon is "augmented reality." But I’d like to suggest that this moniker doesn’t fully capture the nature of the blended experience that may be emerging.

Augmentation implies one big change that had a dramatic impact. And, in fact, that is much of what we see today. Snap Filters, for instance, have that impact: suddenly making a mundane image spooky, or sparkly. or laughable.

But I don’t think that is where the real value is going to come, long-term, from blending real world experience and digital devices. Rather, I think the value will come from the ability to extend, filter and experience the real world in a less dramatic, layered way.

Think of it as being like those flick-on, flick-off lenses optometrists use to test your eyes. They don’t use just one lens; they layer them on top of each other to get the best effect.

That is what I think we will see here. Digital glasses, show me the nearest filling station. Now, show me their current prices. Which have car washes? Which have convenient stores? Each of these requests would change the filtering of experience in a layered way.

Similarly: Show me restaurants on my walking route. Which ones serve sandwiches? Which ones have my best friends been to? Strike that. Which ones have my foodie friends been to? Which do they like best? Is it open?

In reality, I think the power of blended experience won’t come from some single, jaw-dropping transformation of IRL, but through a much more incremental addition or editing of that reality.

We should begin think more about Layered Reality. Take it off, add it on, in the moment, as circumstances require.

I'll be writing more about this topic as it evolves. Stay tuned!