The most interesting reality is other people. Every day, we walk by people who have fascinating stories to tell about who they are, and where they are going. This is a project to unlock those stories and Kickstart social augmented reality with a group of individuals and companies who have pledged their support. This project relies on several conventional ideas and one new technology called dynamic visual signaling. This approach makes it relatively easy to experience social augmented reality. This approach tracks directly with improvements in wearable displays, mobile cameras, and smartphone performance. 

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SOCIAL AR EXPLORER

You will be able to create the first social AR experiences. You will receive the Android client with the ability to provide social data or request signals through a web interface. You will be able to stage experiences & full profiles online that can be easily assigned to participants. Support for smart watches as signaling devices will be added as devices with suitable color displays become available. We believe that the first experiences should be staged by individuals who design the experience and freely invite anyone they want to participate. Imagine a play where each player broadcasts their thoughts to the audience. A party where everyone knows something about everyone by means of broadcast social information. Imagine a space that lives as a social augmented reality for others to view and experience. Thanks to you, your friends and audiences will be able to join shared experiences and you will be able to link the app for download by anyone participating. More detail below. 

SOCIAL AR TECHNICIAN

You will be able to engineer new social AR experiences. You will receive the mobile and Windows PC clients with the ability to utilize the web API to move social data and visual signals to and from any connected device. Like the Explorers, you will be able to stage social AR experiences and freely link the app for download by anyone participating. You will be able to stage experiences & full profiles online that can be easily assigned to participants. In addition, you will be able to create entirely offline instances, with the ability to load profiles and then disconnect eliminating the need to maintain cloud connectivity. With API access, it will be easy to script dynamic social events, pre-allocate social data, update social data with automation, and allocate pre-defined tags. Any web-aware device will be able to provide social data and receive an allocated signal. None of these tasks needs to be particularly technical, everything is based on straight-forward XML markup. More detail below. 

Pioneer Social AR

As a backer you will receive everything you need to begin to explore social augmented reality with updates throughout the life of the project. Backers become originators of social augmented reality experiences and can freely include anyone they know. You will be able to link them to the AFP client for Android to observe, set profiles, and signal. It’s like Google Glass that you can give it to everyone you know for free so everyone can experience it together. You will be able to host public, private, or unlisted events.  You will create the first social augmented reality plays, performances, social events and you will be able to personify places and objects with social identities. You do not need to be technical in any way to create these experiences.

Open Approach

Social augmented reality must be maintained as an open project. To do this, we have worked literally for years to lay the foundation so that a group of independent innovators are first. This will help ensure that privacy and social implications are placed at the forefront and are not an inconvenient afterthought. We are moving before Google, before Facebook, and before Microsoft choose to implement closed solutions without community participation. All Future Parties should be considered a “developer kit” or a “social experiment kit.” Anyone can build social AR experiences limited only by the capability of the observing devices, the size and screen quality of the signaling devices, and the processing capabilities of smartphones.

Social Augmented Reality Debut by Simon Solotko

Social Augmented Reality Approaches

Imagine holding a sign which says only what you want to say, only to people nearby. Now imagine that the sign is more discrete and can have more complex, layered information. And like holding up a sign, there is no commitment. No social network. No login. Just the ability to broadcast information that others can see as a social overlay. 

Social augmented reality is a hard problem and this project has solved some, but not all of the challenges ahead. Check-in is unreliable, facial data is too invasive and doesn’t work without excellent illumination. But we realized that in the near future, everyone will be wearing some sort of smart display and own a smartphone with a camera. It was this realization that originated dynamic visual signaling, a unique approach to AR which assigns visual signals to worn displays which are designed to be recognized at a far distance. These signals, designed specifically to be viewable at a distance, can be used to give an augmented reality identity to anyone or anything in the real world. 

Dynamic Visual Signaling

Dynamic visual signaling is the use of simple visual signals specifically designed to be decoded at a distance for social augmented reality. Anyone who has used a bar code reader or QR code knows that it can be maddening to lock in and decode. All Future Parties uses really simple codes with only a few thousand unique combinations allocated in local vicinities. As people move around their codes can change if already allocated in the vicinity they have wandered into. The only way for a signal to be assigned and to change dynamically is if it is being displayed on some sort of screen or by lightup wearables. So your smartphone passes the visual signal to your wearable, of if your wearable is smart enough and connected to the web, it can go fetch the signal all by itself. 

There are two enabling technologies that are moving fast but are now just good enough to begin this project: mobile phone cameras & wearable displays. As these improve, social AR with the AFP client will improve and more people will be able to step into social ARThe web API makes it easy for technologists to build apps that create social profiles and obtain visual signals. The breakthrough is creating a system that allows people to broadcast information about themselves at a distance, in real time, as an augmented reality overlay. All Future Parties is unique employing dynamic visual signals to serve as visual reference points for augmented reality. What does that mean? It means that it doesn’t use facial recognition or QR codes, it uses easily detected “distance tags” that are displayed by screens you wear. We are on the edge of a future where screens are curved, light, durable and easily worn. We use those screens to provide a spatially accurate visual cue that makes social augmented reality possible.

We think facial data is dangerous – it opens up too many potential invasions of privacy and tracking. We are instead using visual signals that are arbitrary and constantly updated, and nearby observing devices receive social data and associated signals and any changes.

All Future Parties utilizes intermittent connections to the cloud to receive updates to social data and signals. The implication is that you don’t need perfect connectivity to the cloud – you can always roll with your last update. All processing is done on your smartphone. This solution is a different from heavily cloud-dependent AR solutions which must transit complex data back and forth from the cloud to constantly try to figure out what they are looking at and what they should show.  

Privacy & Accountability

All Future Parties is a system without login. You send public social data to the cloud, and in exchange receive visual signal which allows your information to be associated with you. No userID, no friends, just real space AR for public messages. The fact that you are being seen in real space with a social message should ultimately be a stronger incentive to consistent and ethical behavior than any online userID. 

AFP Beta is experimental. The ability to signal visually improves as displays become reflective (like e-ink) and as mobile cameras become more powerful. 

AFP Beta is participatory. You are backing this project because you think it will be cool to observe, signal, or experiment in augmented reality.

AFP Beta is groundbreaking. Not a lot of people spend their time thinking about social augmented reality, but when it begins it will probably be a social avalanche. You will help pioneer social AR and define the ideas and norms that will influence a fast approaching future. 

AFP Beta is progressive. Ask yourself the question of who should be driving social augmented reality, a group of pioneers and responsible intellectuals or a corporate product manager with an eager CFO? 

We want to keep it real, we are creating a collaborative project designed to inspire creativity and exploration.  We have friends, young companies and thought leaders who want to see this experiment carried out transparently and publicly. Thank you for your support and feel free to contact us directly with any questions, recommendations, or to volunteer to help with the project.