For those intrigued by the integration of the digital world and RL (real life), Pranav Mistry has released a new video highlighting his innovative Sixth Sense technology. For those who have not viewed previous demonstrations, the video illustrates a range of useful applications that broaden the possibilities for interaction with the everyday world. Some of the applications are infinitely desirable because they deliver information that can help us make more efficient decisions and save time. Other applications are disruptive and should invoke a discussion of autonomy, privacy and transparency as we interact with representational layers of meaning. Since the technology is designed to augment lived experience, it is also prudent to note a few interesting phenomenological implications arising from the generation of layered realities.
First, it is critical to understand that many people are already operating in a multiplicity of overlapping life-worlds composed of data delivered on demand by GPS, computer-based navigation and mobile web technologies. The always-on information server existing in the Internet cloud allows us to create and gather information on the move. Applications for Android, Blackberry and iPhone devices along with those being installed in new vehicles present us with a transparent, representational universe of data designed to deliver information for bargain shopping, route planning, or travel (Google Goggles). We can also chronicle the day with applications designed to index expenditures, GPS locations and photos. Hence, the Sixth Sense represents a significant extension of these latent possibilities in existing technologies by combining existing modalities for recording experience with data-mining and information exchange via cloud computing and mobile/wireless networks. Here phenomenological accounts of intersecting life-worlds can suggest new modes of “encountering the other” and “knowledge-gathering” that will strongly alter the character of the spontaneous and sublime encounter.
Second, Mistry’s technology goes beyond delivering a cloud-based data catalogue and presents us with an augmented reality that generates multiple layers of interactive and reference information dependent only upon the limitations of imagination and information processing channels available (e.g., no 3G/4G access means no augmentation is possible). From a phenomenological perspective the Sixth Sense introduces a new mode of being-in-the-world. Being encounters a world mapped out in advance, tailored to deliver codified bits of information inform the agent’s experience. The horizon of possibility is archived awaiting an interlocutor to access its layered realms. Simultaneously, the interlocutor can also augment this archive by creating digital traces in the form of notes, publicly accessible comments, photos, GPS records. Even the fixed is mutable within the virtual archive. Being re-textures the life-world by creating additional layers of information and meaning transparently imposed on the physical world. At the extreme limits of interaction, an overwhelming hodgepodge of overlapping life-worlds threatens to paralyze the field of action due to its excess of meaning. Space-time takes on a dual nature: at once codified and dynamic, open to new contexts and random augmentations.
Third, as in previous demonstrations of this technology, concerns about transparency and privacy come to the fore at the site where data-mining threatens anonymity. The Sixth Sense makes transparent that which is hidden in everyday interaction. Insofar as tags, URLs and social networking attributes can be associated with persons, the way we experience identity when the other is “tagged” privileges representational, categorical modes of knowing over enactive engagement with the other as a field of open possibilities. Both the sublime and spontaneous are exchanged in a quest for certainty. What is lost in this exchange is humility in the field of action; when we encounter a “labeled” other, we are creating boundaries and reducing the space in the clearing that opens into the infinite field of momentary transformation.
The Sixth Sense technology presents phenomenologists with a challenge to think Being as it functions in overlapping life-worlds peppered with complementary and contradictory fields of concern. The multiplicity and excess of information arises from data taken from the cloud and inscribed on RL. The newly inscribed meanings should prove to generate new descriptions of the ready-at-hand and the towards-which Being always encounters in the field of action. Any thoughts?