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“The story of the events and the people who over centuries came together to bring us in from the cold and to wrap us in a warm blanket of technology is a matter of vital importance. Since more and more of that technology infiltrates every aspect of our lives it’s become a life support system without which we can’t survive.” – James Burke, Connections – 1978


Today is Valentine’s Day. The holiday loosely based on some religious dogma but popularized by greeting card companies and flower vendors. The holiday probably delivers the most amount of guilt, especially towards the male of our species. According to the doctrine surrounding this so-called holiday, true love (or any passing fancy, lust or like) can only be truly expressed on this particular day – through the gift of red and pink emblazoned topiary and chocolates – rather than any other day of the year. Cynicism aside, have I mentioned that GUNNAR Optiks now offers women’s style frames?

Regardless, we all seem to know our place when it comes to Valentine’s day – we have to get our significant other something or risk retribution. Yet, as human evolution and technological evolution continue to merge, how is that going to change the romantic expressions we are guilt driven into performing? You see, humans have always evolved along with technology, but there will come a point where we cross that line. Instead of us driving the evolution of technology in parallel, technology will drive our evolution.

I like to cite the movie Wall-E in this case – with the fat, dependent humans. Technology – invented and perfected by the human – became something that drove change. The human race became dependent on technology for their survival. While that argument could be made now (kick a teenager off Facebook, you’ll see) we really aren’t to the point where our base levels of survival are based on technology. It assists and moves us through almost every aspect of daily life, but if shut off – we would survive. Of course, the counter argument could also be made that even if we are past the point of not being able to survive without technology, life would still find a way.

Which brings me to augmented reality. This is the theory, currently in practice, that alters our perception of the world through the use of technology. Think heads-up displays on the windshield of a car. This is augmented reality. Integration with autos is just the beginning however – and you better have your GUNNARS on because your eyes are going to be the center-point for everything that is classified as augmented reality. Our integration with technology will become heavily reliant on our ability to quickly and comfortably visually process new information that complements current information. Basically, you are amping up this sense of sight to compensate for a reality that isn’t real – but feels real. You could spend $100 on flowers this Valentine’s Day, or you could invest in some GUNNARS for you and the significant other.

So speculatively you might be asking, where is augmented reality going? Let’s get speculative in relation to the pending holiday. Also, let’s pretend that Google Glass is fully integrated with GUNNARS because that’d be beautiful. Speculative analysis of romance related augmented reality brought to you by @funky49 (he’s single ladies!)

  • You spontaneously leave the home without dinner plans and head to your fav part of town. Digital “Monocle” (currently Yelp) surveys wait times.
  • GPS knows you’re in a flower shop. Popup in your Google Glasses reminds you your girl likes carnations.
  • You go out to the nightclub district and apps direct you to where single girls are congregating.
  • Google Glasses calculates how dressy her attire is, suggests matching attire complete with color coordination. Google Glasses measures increases in blood flow to her lips, cheeks and dilation of her pupils. You turn on the moves…or if your data input allows, you now know to take her home. On the drive home, your Google Glasses alerts you when you’re passing a known cop location to help avoid a ticket.

In other news, the lonely may finally have that sex robot they’ve been dreaming about. A company in Japan (go figure) has created a robot that when viewed through a special visor will be replaced with an avatar of their choosing. What does this mean for consumers? It means that you can project the image of anyone onto the robot, and while it won’t feel like a human – though I’m sure tactile sensory inputs are next – it will certainly look like one. Now all you fanboys can finally make sweet, sweet love to Samus Aran, with or without the suit.

Mark Stevenson, author of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future had this to say to me about augmented reality, “When your computer participates in the same real world that you do, your relationship will likely improve.” This of course poses the question of what is ‘real’ – when do we blur the line and cross over? Stevenson said we “crossed that line ages ago, depending on where you draw the line. I find the distinction often redundant.”

While technology has always been our constant companion through the ages, it’s becoming clear that soon we will be integrated with technology more than we have ever been before. From head-up displays on the glasses in front of our faces, to sexual encounters as suggested by the prophetic movie Demolition Man, augmented reality will become our immediate reality. Thankfully, it appears that the three seashells are still just an abstract theory. Facing down this change in how we live our lives, we can’t forget about our vision and how the eyes are going to be key to all of it.

For now though, roses are real (overpriced) and while you can virtually deliver flowers to your loved one, you know that’ll come with a guilt trip. Truthfully, in my augmented reality future there is an app that blocks out guilt trips and replaces them with delightful elevator music.

h/t to @funky49 and @optimistontour for musing with me on this.


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