Welcome to the “third world”

I get a lot of press releases. Most of them are shit.

Sometimes though, they mention something intriguing. Today I got a release from www.skrite.com . Basically it’s an augmented reality (AR) mobile app; it allows you to write a message, then “store” it in the sky (which in reality probably means the phone logs the GPS coordinates of where your phone is pointing when you write the message)

When another app user points their phone’s camera at that patch of sky, they can read the message.

So why am I blogging about it? Because it taps into a concept I find fascinating: the “third space” that technology is beginning to create between us and the physical world.

In our live phone-hacking stage show, we reveal to the audience the invisible mesh of data that now surrounds us: WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular communications.

If you can tap into it this hidden world (and with WiFi you only need a cheap bit of kit to do so) you find a mix of publicly-available data and personal info.

Augmented reality creates another frontier here: the prospect of a world populated with information that can only be seen by those with the right kind of eyes: augmented reality software.

The possibilities are mind-bending. Imagine if each phone came equipped with individualised AR; you could leave virtual notes for yourself, written onto your car windscreen or your front door. Your partner’s AR phone would see a completely different message in the same location.

With the re-emergence of Google Glass, this future is closer than you think.

There are some weighty ethical and social questions here: who owns this emerging “liminal” technological space? What happens to the shared, communal world we currently gaze out at, when it’s covered with messages that only some can see? What if I decide to scrawl racist comments all over my neighbour’s patch of sky?

I’ll be fascinated to see what happens to the “third world” that now hovers between our eyes and the physical world we behold.