It was the mid 1970’s and Lee Majors was Steve Austin the 6 million dollar man with amazing bionic abilities, including bionic sight. With his artificial eye, he could see far further than the average human and was truly built better then he was before and like every other kid on the elementary school play ground I dreamed of having his amazing abilities. However was a little short on the cash as the 50 cents or so of lunch money in my pocket wasn’t going to cut it and even if it did. Charged Coupled Cameras where the size of a toaster at best and doubt that would have fit into my eye socket anyway.
However today we don’t need 6 million to do what Steve’s fancy eye could, in fact for $3.99 (Spyglass) and a camera based iOS device one can do far more. What I’m speaking about is “augmented reality” where we take the real world and over lay our virtual one on top of it. We’ve all seen the apps where you aim your smart phone at an object and based upon the internal GPS and compass it figures out its position, searches a database and overlays data about the view on the screen. Thus you can not only see the restaurant, you can also see the reviews and menu just like a “heads up” display.
While this alone is amazing, your friends in Cupertino (Apple) have once again come out with a sleeper in the iPad II as Steve and team have built in a gyroscope, this device has a clear understanding where it is in three dimensional space which makes for a nice game controller, however in more practical terms, this coupled with the built in camera now allow me to hold in my hands capabilities which would make even Steve Austin yellow with envy as I along with everyone else similarly equipped can easily map and measure our world in 3D.
Just imagine it this way as we bringing together GPS, Compass, and 3D gyro all into one package as its much like holding a sophisticated transit in your hands and one can even see the add-ons coming with laser locators* for targeted precision as well as pixel mapping for increased “measuring” capabilities. What is the value of all of this you ask other then the “geekness” factor?
In short placing this technology in the hands of the masses means taking crowd sourcing to the next level as tools like this were once only in the domain of the expert meaning only very little could be done. Back to the CCD (charged coupled device) which is the sensor in your digital camera** which has gone from toaster size to your cell phone with room left over. Now this technology graces a million or so amateur telescopes in the average Joes backyard and they are using them to measure star light in what is known as photometry which was once only the domain of the professional astronomer.
Crowd sourced based organizations like the Variable Star Association have also sprung up to provide quality measures as well as act as a clearing house for the data to the professional (astronomer) community. What will this new technology bring with it, while its hard to tell as man is an ingenious creator, however things such as historical preservation, construction and the like all easily come to mind. What will you do with your new found reality…
*Note: If you develop this idea feel free, just reference me please.
**Note: As a side, yes I fully realize that the CMOS sensor has replaced the CCD in many cases for digital imaging as the chip and supporting circuitry is cheaper even if not as “quantum” efficient as the CCD.