Moving Beyond the Page

Augmented Reality (AR) is a fairly new concept, in which mobile devices are used to add layers of information to a physical setting. One of the best early manifestations of this idea comes from the Dutch developers of an app called Layar. In one of their earliest concepts, a smartphone’s camera, GPS, WiFi and compass were used to identify buildings in Amsterdam. Once identified, users could obtain actionable data about the building, including rental and contact information. That’s just the beginning.

Here’s a video that illustrates some of the possibilities.

Layar is not alone in imagining AR.

  • There is an iPhone app that uses an iPhone’s positioning system to play an ever-changing soundtrack for visitors to Central Park.
  • London Unfurled uses geo-positioning to provide a guided landmark tour along the River Thames.
  • Peter Meyers, meanwhile, blogs about an “infinite canvas” that opens numerous possibilities outside the boundaries of the eBook (frankly, some of the ideas remind me of envisioning projects that should stay in the lab. Maybe I spent too many years in the Microsoft Office Labs).

So what does all of this have to do with “Butcher, Baker?” A book like “Butcher, Baker” is a perfect candidate for AR. It is set within an identifiable physical reality: Anchorage and the Alaskan Bush. A “Butcher, Baker” app would guide users through that physical reality to, for example, the Knik River, the Kenai Peninsula and the former site of Hansen’s Bakery in Anchorage. Yes, it would be a very different journey, not for the faint of heart.

Will it really happen? Who knows. Today I am channeling Mr. Meyers, imagining the possibilities…

Copyright, Leland E. Hale (2011)

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