"Augmented Reality" Foretells a Dark Future

Ransom Riggs

What if the things you did in "Second Life" had an effect on the real world? In Shaspa's new "augmented reality" power management tool, they do. They've created a program (and a hardware kit) that helps users control their home resource consumption -- that is, water, power and gas. But this handy application takes an unusual form; rather than boring, spreadsheet-style lists of your devices, their status (on/off) and power/water/gas consumption levels, Shaspa has created a "Second Life"-like video game environment in which you control an avatar that roams around a 3D "home" environment and turn devices on or off. Unlike "Second Life," however, what you do actually happens in the real world -- in your home.

Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with this. It's a cool idea. If your avatar turns off the bathroom light, your actual bathroom light turns off. There's even social interaction -- there are other avatars in this world, all controlling their own power consumption, and you can compare your resource use with that of others, introducing a little healthy competition into the mix. Which is all well and good, but if you ask me, there's something just a wee bit creepy about it, in kind of an Uncanny Valley / dystopian future sort of way. It's not hard to imagine this catching on, and years from now, people controlling more and more of their lives via third-person avatar. And why not? It's the perfect way to complete unpleasant tasks without getting your hands dirty: armies of drones and robots remotely controlled by the grandchildren of today's WOW geeks, disposing of toxic waste, guarding important public figures, even interacting with their own families.

I'm kind of kidding, of course. But also kind of not. Via Ecogeek.