Augmented Reality and Web 3.0
Saturday 30 April 2011
by Nik Peachey
During my recent spate of workshops, training and conference presentations, one of the most common questions I have been asked is: “What will Web 3.0 be like?”
I guess it had to come. Almost as soon as people started describing various sites as Web 2.0 others started speculating about Web 3.0 and what it would be.
What is Web 2.0?
To put this discussion into context, the term ‘Web 2.0’ came about to describe a change in web that begun a few years back. For me, one of the key changes that occurred was a shift from websites that had content which was designed delivered and controlled by the company or person that produced the site, to a ‘user generated’ model of content development.
In the user generated model, companies produced web services which enabled anyone who signed up for the service to produce and share their own content. Some prime examples of this are of course YouTube, Facebook, Blogger and MySpace. None of the companies that produce these sites make any content, they just create the platform and then anyone who wants to use the platform creates the content. You can contrast this with something like the BBC’s website where the BBC owns the site and produces the content for the site. We just go there to passively receive the news – though many news sites like the BBC and CNN have included some web 2.0 type features to involve and include audience opinions and comments much more.
The other key change that blossomed with web 2.0 was the huge growth in social networking. Because ‘ordinary’ people like you and I were able to create and publish our content online, we wanted to start sharing it with our friends, colleagues and just about anyone around the world who was interested, so these sites also enabled us to connect up with our networks of friends and to start interacting with their content and commenting and collaborating together.
So the fundamental change that came about was a kind of ‘democratization of the web’. It changed from being largely a ‘top down’ broadcast medium where only those with the skills or money to develop websites controlled what was published, to a ‘peer to peer’ interactive network where anyone with basic digital literacies could create a web presence and start sharing information with anyone who was interested.
What about Web 3.0?
So, that’s a very brief description of the shift to Web 2.0, but what about Web 3.0? Does there have to be one? Is it already here?
I’ve heard quite a few people speculating about Web 3.0. At one point, when virtual worlds such as Second Life were all the rage, it was being described as Web 3.D and many were predicting that the web would become a 3 dimensional space that we would fly around using our virtual avatars.
Others have described Web 3.0 as the ‘semantic web’. The development of semantic web standards was designed to help computers ‘understand’ and read web pages and make connections between them. This would dramatically improve the effectiveness of search engines and help people to access web based information more effectively.
One of the most recent predictions is that with the drastic growth of internet able hand-held devices such as phones, gaming consoles and tablet devices Web 3.0 will be all about ‘the mobile web’.
Web 3.0 and Augmented Reality
In my opinion, Web 3.0 will combine features from all of these in the form of what is being described as ‘ Augmented Reality’. Augmented reality is a kind of fusion between our existing physical reality and the internet. That sounds a bit farfetched, but in fact it is much simpler than it sounds and it is happening already.
What it means in reality is that mobile devices, will help us to access information from the internet which is specific to our physical location and proximity to real world objects places and even people. Check out mobile apps from Gowalla and Foursquare for examples of this.
What’s more devices that have some form of optic, such as a camera, will enable us to see and interact with 3D multimedia visualizations of information which can be overlaid on what the camera shows us of the ‘real’ world. here’s an interesting video of an augmented reality web browser being used on a mobile phone; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b64_16K2e08
A good way to understand this is to think about the kinds of small audio devices that you can hire when you visit some museums or famous monuments. They usually direct you around a specific route and at certain points you listen to the recording and it tells you about what you can see at that point. But with augmented reality your mobile device will know where you are and you will be able to access and interact with different kinds of information about that place. Taking our museum tour as an example, you could hold up your camera phone in front of a painting and the painting could come to life in 3D or you could see a 3D virtual representation of the painter telling you about the painting. You could also access messages left by other people who have visited the painting and leave your own impressions for others to share.
Augmented reality could open up huge potential for education outside of the classroom and enable students to learn and interact with whatever is in their immediate physical environment at any particular time. It could also transform publishing and the way we interact with books and images by enabling us to transform them into interactive multimedia. The best way to see how this works is to go to the GE website which uses augmented reality to show forms of renewable energy. (http://ge.ecomagination.com/smartgrid/#/augmented_reality ). This has a really nice example of 3D augmented reality. You’ll need to print up a single piece of paper, then hold it up in front of your web cam and see what happens or if you are feeling lazy, just watch this video: GE’s Augmented Reality
So what do you think?
- Do you have your own prediction about what Web 3.0 will be?
- Have you tried any augmented reality apps yet?
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