Real World Annotations

Courtesy of Danny Ayers I came across this blog entry from Russell Beattie: Real World Annotations: Manywhere Places.

I’ve always liked this idea, and have repeatedly suggested it to friends and colleagues as a “cool thing” to watch out for. (Actually I think it first came up during one of those “Lets Start a dotcom” discussions that seemed to dominate pub debates a couple of years back. Funny how we don’t have those anymore! 🙂
My take on it was this: I’m in a new town and want to find someone decent to eat. Finding somewhere isn’t that hard. Finding somewhere worth visiting is another matter. How many times have you lurked outside a restaurant (usually with a group) collectively assessing the menu, decor, etc and trying to decide whether to actually go in?
So my thought was, what if I could post a message through a GPS aware mobile device which reviews that particular restaurant or pub (or any public location really)? Then other people can stand on the doorstep and read previous reviews. Or more likely a synthesized rating, after all we’re hungry right? Don’t want to stand around in the cold for too long.
There are all sorts of other potential uses. How about if you see an accident or a crime, and want to be a good citizen and be a witness? Being able to quickly blog your current position would not only confirm that you were where you said you were, but also help with reconstructions of the scene.
Russell also mentions the idea of virtual tours using SMS messaging. There’s a company here in Bath already doing this called Textploitation, they call them “Texting Trails“. Some former colleagues of mine (Jim and Alison) work there.
The reason I like the general premise here is that it allows us to being overlaying the virtual environment on the physical one.

2 thoughts on “Real World Annotations

  1. Ah, this is an area that also interests me. I remember reading about special glasses with which you could see annotated space. An example would be that you’d specify that the plant your mom gave you needs to be watered every week. You could annotate it in a way, so that overlayed your glasses would be an arrow every week with the text “Needs watering”. Then, after you’ve watered it, you could turn off that annotation, until next week.
    One problem with restaurant reviews, as the example, is that it opens up for nasty legal problems. Who owns the virtual overlay of “meat space”? Lets say two restaurants are in a tough war over customers. One of them could hire someone to place a nasty review of the other restaurant in virtual space. Now, does the targetted restaurant have a ruling of annotations of itself? It does have the right to remove posters on its walls claiming it is a stinking restaurant, so what happens in virtual space?

  2. Now those plant watering glasses I could really do with!
    With regard to the restaurant reviews, I chose that example deliberately as it raises a lot of issues as you’ve highlighted in your comments. If real world annotations take off, then its going to be interesting to see how the overlaps between real and virtual spaces are handled from many different perspectives, including the legal ones.
    In the UK at least, I believe that I “own” the airspace directly above my property — at least until a specific height is reached — so perhaps I’ll also “own” the virtual space too? Hard to police though. Its easy to saw a branch of a neighbours tree if its encroaching on my garden, but difficult to stop someone posting something to my GPS co-ordinates if there’s no central point of annotation (which there won’t be).

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