The phrase “augmented reality” is still unfamiliar to many, but it will soon be our reality. A small screen, placed right in front of our eyes, will display all the information relevant to us, in a fully personalized manner. For example, it will show us that in exactly one hour, there will be a particularly important mingling event at a hotel, and its address will be provided, and we will even receive notification regarding the closest parking to the event. When we enter the upscale lobby, we will receive updated information about the people present, using face-recognition technology, and within seconds we will know who the people are who start up conversations with us, sparing all parties a tactless, surprised expression. On the way back to the office, the small screen will remind us “Don’t forget to buy a gift for your partner, who is celebrating his birthday today, at his favorite store.”
“We're going to change the way millions of people experience reality on a day to day basis,” explains Helen Papagiannis, who leads the most advanced development of this technology in the world, in an interview with “Lady Globes.” Her formal title is Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) at InfinityAR, the first company in the world to work on augmented reality software.
“We are developing the first Augmented Reality software platform to connect universally with digital eyewear such as Google Glass, smartphones and tablets, as well as your smart watch, smart TV, augmented reality glasses and even the computer in your car.
“Up until now, Augmented Reality has been mainly a gimmick--we are drastically changing this and redefining Augmented Reality to provide highly useful and relevant experiences to the end user.”
Exactly what Google is doing with Google Glass
“Not exactly. We are creating software that will work on hardware such as Google Glass and connect all of your digital devices together so you can have a seamless experience. Google Glass is not a true Augmented Reality experience; Glass only begins to scratch the surface of what's possible and is very limited right now.
“Our goal is to define a new era of Augmented Reality. The industry is still too focused on gimmickry nonsense. No one cares about seeing a 3D dinosaur virtually appear on your table this is a stage trick and a gag it's not going to enrich your life. We want technology to help you live a better life in a seamless way by providing things that are more relevant to you when you need them. And 3D dinosaurs are likely not on that list.
“I want to start a revolution - for the technology that I am working on to change daily routines, and improve daily life. Our software will revolutionize a user's life by anticipating what she needs and provide timely content on the device best suited to the user's context. AR is emerging as a new mass medium (comparable to film, television, and radio when they first appeared) and it is going to change, for the better, how we interact with our world and each other.”
Papagiannis, 35, was born and raised in Toronto and studied interactive media in college: she studied Art and English Literature at the University of Toronto, and holds a Master's Degree in Communications from Ryerson University. For the past decade she has been fully immersed in augmented reality, which is also the subject of her doctorate, which she will soon be completing at York University. “Two things I hated most when I was in high school were public speaking and writing essays; I just wanted to be an artist. I still make art, but public speaking and writing are two things that make up the major part of my career and I love doing them! Sometimes you surprise yourself with the things you think you hate and fear.”
She lives in downtown Toronto, in a trendy district, surrounded by restaurants, designer boutiques, and tech companies. “Like most people, I sleep with my smartphone by my side, so my day begins with reading the emails I received overnight, while I’m still in bed. As soon as I get up, I answer my emails and messages, and catch up on social media and news. Only after this basic update do I start my morning routine of shower, yoga, and a light breakfast. A few days a week I try to wake up very early, just to enjoy the quiet and see the first light of day.”
Is this fond romanticism tied to your artistic side?
“I am an artist at heart with the brain of a techie. I dream of a world where we are closer to the things and people we love most, and technology helps us to achieve that. I dream of a world where technology can help us supplement the things we have lost, to regain a better way of being and to experience life in new enriching ways we have yet to imagine. I dream of technology that makes us truly smile and engage with our world in warm, human, and enlightening ways. I'm afraid of a disconnected world where people don't interact with each other in person anymore.”
Papagiannis works in collaboration with a few companies, among them: Meta SpaceGlasses, whose chief scientist is Prof. Steven Mann, father of wearable computing. “He has been augmenting reality for three decades,” and he researches the subject at the University of Toronto.
When did you begin to be excited by technology?
“I loved computers as a kid and was always fascinated by the magic of technology. I played with both dolls and robots. I would often steal my brother's He-Man and Transformers toys because Barbie needed a date, and I loved how the Transformers could change into different objects!
“The magic of technology was always awe-inspiring, so new gadgets always excite me. But along with all the ways technology can excite us, it is important to see before our eyes that which makes us human. As developers of software that will change the world, we must remember that the human experience is at its core.”
An era of calm technology
InfinityAR is headed by Enon Landenberg, founder of E-Dologic. Papagiannis commutes regularly between Canada and Israel, and moves between the company’s Innovation Center in Toronto, and its Research and Operations Center in Tel Aviv. “When I am traveling I am always looking for routes that will allow me to be creative, and will inspire me. I like to take long baths. At the end of each day I think of all the incredible things that happened, and everything I want to accomplish the next day. It excites me that it is possible the change the manner in which people experience reality, and it excites me that the ‘someone’ who is doing it, is I.
Technological advances are associated with a cold future, yet you are always talking about human warmth.
“In five years we will be living in an era of ‘calm technology’ where technology is invisible and natural to use, it doesn't interrupt or get in the way of life, and it happens in the background, appearing only when you need it. Think of Spike Jonze’s ‘Her,’ - it portrays the near future, where technology is more advanced than people, a world in which consumers and designers are very aware of the connection to the real world, and technology is not a goal, in and of itself. This is precisely the point at which augmented reality becomes the ideal, because it enables us to continue living in our world, and to build inter-personal connections with each other.
“Today’s smartphones require so much attention, and we want to be free of that dependency. Instead of you taking care of your technology, your technology will take care of you. The strength of the technology that appears in the movie is the artificial intelligence, and its ability to understand what the human wants at any given moment. This is not science fiction, and we are not even talking about the distant future. This is augmented reality.”
How will it work?
“We will have two brains: our human brain and the Infinity Pink Brain, which will be responsible for artificial intelligence. The Pink Brain will free your brain and time to focus on the things that matter to you most. The Pink Brain knows you and your context very well and has the ability to anticipate your needs before you even do. Also, face, object, location, voice analysis and detection are used.”
If all this information becomes readily available, our degree of excitement in their discovery will go down.
“What will happen is that we will no longer need to waste time seeking material things, so joy from human moments will return to us. In ten years we will be engaging with technology in ways that seem almost dream-like now, including direct brain interfaces where you will be able to control actions and preferences with your thoughts. Our digital displays and devices will have gone beyond being only smart, now they will also be a closer more fully integrated part of us and our human nature, embedded in and on our bodies with technology getting smaller and more ubiquitous.”
What will happen to Google and the social networks, as we know them today?
“Social networking and Google, the way we know it today, will very soon be the old generation and will expand to be combined with Augmented Reality into a new generation and a whole new ecosystem. Our software platform will be your gateway to these connected experiences. Our first public version will be ready in a few months. We are developing something on the bleeding edge and brand new that does not exist. We are redefining what Augmented Reality is, taking the letters A R to now stand for “Amazing Relevance”, which is the name of our software platform.”
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 27, 2014
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014