Augmented reality (AR) is one of those buzz expressions bandied around at the moment that people nod about, as if they understood the full implications.
But in fact, the potential impact of changing reality by adding much new information, is potentially one of the most far-reaching innovations in a technology that has been rapid and relentless. It certainly means that the future of photography looks very different from now.
All anybody needs already to augment reality is a processor, a camera, a compass and GPS. Apple has filed a patent application in the USA called ‘augmented reality maps’ to bring augmented reality-based mapping and map search features to its camera app.
It will show information about everyone and everything that is nearby the view through the lens. Searching this information will be straightforward, so in effect, users will be holding a complete information system/tool in their hands. Anything that is known will be revealed.
Such a camera could be pointed at say a line of shops while searching for clothes. All such outlets will be shown, with distances and maps. On that level, it is simply a direction locator on a mobile device.
But this taken to the next stage, navigates/directs the user, giving him at once all the knowledge in the world, yet is told how to use it. Apple and Google are working together to use Street View. Eventually real time views will arrive. Eventually reality browsers (like Layar), monocle mode (Yelp) and Apples Photobooth in Lion will be merged into a future generation of cameras.
In the meantime, at least one group if innovators are researching how a person could use an augmented camera device to ‘engage in a more social photographic experience’. This begs the question: what is in store for the next generation of cameras? What is the future of photography itself? Is there a limit to sharing pictures?
Elevating the Banal
Sean O’Hagan wrote in the Guardian (July 2011) under the heading ‘Why you are the future of photography’ about a manifesto of photographers, historians and artists. They felt that ‘we all recycle, clip and cut, remix and upload. We can make images do anything. All we need is an eye, a brain, a camera, a phone, a laptop, a scanner, a point of view’.
They thought the internet and cheap digital cameras radically alter what we do with how we see the world. Technology changes our sense of what it means to make and ‘results in work that feels like play, work that turns old into new, elevates the banal. Work that has a past but feels absolutely present’.
Everyone, with clips of animals, children and adults doing stupid things, people’s habits/hobbies and fetishes graphically revealed on the web, adds to the proof that the banality of life has been lifted to a new art form. Manipulating, mashing and sharing all these images is the freedom anybody and everybody now has. Image making has a new status.
History May Be a Circle
In the first 100 years or so since its invention, photography changed little. A box with a lens admitted light onto a film plate. Then came colour, shutter speeds, roll film, different sized and underwater cameras, polaroid and finally digital sensors and high definition replacing film, but the basic principle remained unchanged.
Manufacturers are not yet falling over each other in the rush to develop future-proof cameras that will allow bolt-ons of each and every new tweak, but they will come eventually.
Careers in photography have been changed along with everything else in life by digital. Now it is possible to be an artists as well as a technician with photography, and now almost anybody can do it and be successful. Just as people watch video on YouTube and click on ads, so people buy images.
The progress of the basic digital SLR camera is still ongoing. Affordable live views, High Dynamic Ranges (HDR) for contrast scenarios, very high quality ISO, rapid shutters that capture everything and digital manipulation as seen in movies. The need for the expert visionary photographer with good technological grasp and a sure eye and patience for the perfect shot of people and nature, will continue. The professional wedding photographer is assured a living!
There is a view that just like in music, teaching and other fields, a ‘back to basic skills’ movement may set in with photography, where just taking a picture without all the bells and whistles may be the rave thing. Faking the image digitally may be out of fashion (for a time) and old fashioned ‘truth’ (the camera cannot lie) may come back.
Then, nostalgically, a picture will be worth a thousand words once again!
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What is the future of photography?
The future of photography 2007.