The first time I truly experienced the power of augmented reality was when I moved to a new city — and decided to become a pokémon trainer, of course.
(Fellow hippies, please don’t leave yet! We will get to the part where we don’t talk about videogames and screens, I promise. Just stick with me, will ‘ya.)
One of the features in this game — besides the fact that you encountered different creatures exploring your actual physical town (wow, cool)— was that to recharge yourself, you had to go to an “interest spot” in real life. What were those? Well..
The company behind the game gave players the agency to choose what was interesting.
So… a cool graffiti? Sure!
A hospital? Yeah!
The Eiffel Tower? Of course!
And I was lucky enough to have one of those “interest spots” right in front of my building. I could recharge at any time! One day I decided to check what non-digital thing was bestowing me such unfair advantage.
This is what I found:
I had lived in this place for almost 2 months — and it was a pokémon game that pointed me to the fact that 4 people who used to live here died in Auschwitz.
Suddenly, it was not history, it was close — it was literally home. I started paying attention to small ground signs like those. They are all over Berlin. A lot of people died and the city was paying a beautiful tribute to all of them.
I realised my reality had been far more augmented by those steel squares than by the game.
Drawing inspiration from games (a hippie-friendly explanation)
The beauty behind PokémonGo was that it combined different breakthroughs in technology into a single product. It was the brilliant Google Maps easy-to-use location technology plus the addictive digital collector-frenzy of the Pokémon series — all applied to the real world via augmented reality. Splendid!
Since then I’ve been thinking what other breakthroughs I could use as augmented reality tools.
Then it struck me: Dark Souls.
Dark Souls is a popular game about exploring a vicious world and dying a lot. Really: a lot. In fact, the game is so hard that it created a very unique and tight community around it — it’s almost as if everyone has a shared Stockholm syndrome to really bond with.
But of course the developers want you to finish the game, so they created this mechanic: floor messages. Not so different from the ones I found right in front of my building.
The idea is: any player can leave a tip to others like “trap ahead” or “use fire weapon ahead” and other players can rate it useful or useless. A little piece of humanity in a grim grim world.
People trying to help people… even… here?
The (New) Age of Revolutions
We’re living an age packed with so many breakthroughs that it’s hard to pinpoint my favourite ones. Still, I’ve been touched by the God of Collaboration — and I can see some revolutions are actually different from what people think. Allow me to explain:
I really believe that the creation of the first DLSR camera — the Nikon D1 — changed the world. It shaped the digital camera market and in a way helped shaping contemporary photography. I can say the same about many tech strokes of genius.
But now let’s think AirBnb, Reddit, Tripadvisor. Their softwares are not groundbreaking (heck, they’re not even complicated) — their revolution had a different colour. These companies (and people, let’s never forget companies are made of humans) are navigating a revolution that talks about trust, about people trying to help, about individuals taking their time to create a better environment for people they don’t know.
So while the Silicon Valley’s morning glory is the applications of the Nikon D1s to the everyday life (much like PokémonGo), I’ve already realised that the stumbling stones are far more powerful. But they’re narrow in purpose — unlike Dark Souls’ floor messages.
Now… how can we combine the usefulness of the Dark Souls’ floor message with the tactile humanity of the stumble stone?
Post-it augmented reality: the challenge
Ok hippies, here we are! The apotheosis!
I hope the war-related stories and mentions to trust in mankind were enough to keep you around. It’s time to augment reality HIPPIE STYLE. But how?
Well, you don’t need the latest now-CIA-knows-your-face iphone to enjoy the omnipotence of post-its. Oh little bright coloured fairies, light our path to knowledge!
What I’m going to propose here is a low-tech augmented reality experience. It will require nothing but post-its — and your own will to make this world better.
The rules are simple: carry a bunch of post-its in your bag / backpack / ritualistic post-it pouch. Every time you’re faced with a situation in which you think you can help others live a better life, add a note.
Imagine the implications! In the supermarket:
“Last time my cat ate this, he puked a lot”
“I know this soap is cheaper, but it’s actually better than the premium”
“The n.04 cashier was kinda blue the other day, please give her a big smile”
In the office:
“Free cake on the 6th floor”
“Harvey’s birthday is next week, he really likes oldschool comics”
“I’m starting kung fu classes next week! Anybody wanna join?”
On the street:
“Caution! Pidgeon poop area!”
“I really love this kebab, really friendly staff”
“I’m a magical post-it note and I’m enchanting you with infinite energy!”
In the end, what we need is not a new app or tech; what we really need is something that will brighten our days, make our lives easier and happier. You can, but you don’t need to think about the kaleidoscopic digital environments to embark on the latest technology revolutions — many of them are social technologies.
Just add a post-it line to your own human-behaviour script.
It will scale.