I must speak up on this one. Recently in the New York Times Sunday magazine, Rob Walker wrote a foolish article about augmented reality. The first half deals with introducing augmented reality, the Avatar movie, and the Yelp app. But this is his description of the future of this incredible technology:

Core77, the online design magazine, suggested one amusing possibility earlier this year: fold in facial-recognition technology and you could point your phone at Bob from accounting, whose visage is now “augmented” with the information that he has a gay son and drinks Hoegaarden. More recently, a Swedish company has publicized a prototype app that would in fact augment the image of Bob (or whomever) with information from his social-networking profiles — and they aren’t kidding.

Your silly example wrecks the already floundering article, whose original purpose, I assume, was to inform us about an incoming technology. So how and why did you come up with the idea that Bob would be marked with a note saying his son is gay? It implies that augmented reality entails a violation of privacy, which it does not.

How about: “Fold in facial-recognition technology and you could point your phone at Bob from accounting and see him enwrapped in a digital ecosystem—video tattoos bloom across his body like Ray Bradbury’s Illustrated Man, while around his head swirls a halo of tweets, emotions, and memories. It may all be virtual, but the way you see him is augmented in a very real way.”

But instead of offering a creative example to show that the possibilities are endless, you make up an offensive scenario and then sarcastically write “they aren’t kidding,” which subtly attributes your idea to the people who are developing augmented reality. It’s dishonest.

If this sounds off-putting, it’s worth noting that most assessments of the augmented-reality trend include the speculation that the hype will fade.

So you’re trying to put us off to augmented reality, and then reassure us that we have nothing to worry about since it won’t happen anyway. Then why write about this topic in the first place? If it’s not news, and it’s not interesting, what’s the point? And, “most assessments” is weasely. If you’ve got the goods, link to them, or at least name your sources.

…Why just look at a restaurant, a colleague or the “Mona Lisa,” when you can you can “augment” them all?

The scare quotes around the word ‘augment’ make it sound like you’re uncomfortable with using the word; as if it’s jargon. Expand your horizons! You don’t need to use quotes every time you learn a new word!

I don’t mean to pick you, NYT, but your articles about new technologies are sometimes rather irritating. Instead of writing with genuine interest and optimism about exciting new trends, you project a cynicism that hints at fear and confusion just beneath the surface.

(via DUB For the Future)

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