18 November 2002
Hand in hand we step off the train into the dark and stormy night. That lasts less than a second, enough time for my glasses to handshake and start downloading.
This is a village I've not visited before so I've not had yet time to paint the texturemap to my own preferences, but appropriate patterns start tiling the townhouses anyway having been chosen automatically based on my previous choices elsewhere and the choices of people like me.
It's unfamiliar, but looks good anyway. The streetlamp I'm under has been blitted by a furious plasma which I instantly recognise as Karen's tag - it's the way it looks 2d as I walk around it, but has a seductive depth too - clearly her work. And excellent as always. I blink twice at the lamp and the glasses increase Karen's score. More of that!
Meanwhile the night has been filled in, the villagescape interpolated from the various infrared views broadcast from dozens of local nodes. If it wasn't for the water on my face and my personalised weather now-cast scrolling on the guttering I wouldn't guess it was past midnight and raining.
That's Karen, next to me. This is her second visit and she's checking the route is safe. Her hands are making tiny swimming motions in the air as they pull her avatar through the sidewalks rendered on the inside of her glasses, patchworked in realtime from same node transmissions which made night day for me.
While she's there I check my email, overlaid in my usual infospace: to the right, between the horizon and an azimuth of 45 degrees and less than 60 metres away. Karen IMs me: Coming honey?, and I hadn't noticed she'd walked off. I trot after her, IMing back on a keyboard painted in pixels on the roof of a parked car.
Augmented reality is the best, most connected, most you place to live. These glasses constantly read in the world around me, repaint it, and show it to my eyes. Whole objects are swapped out for ones more in tune with the life of me and my friends. My worldview is continuously enhanced and skinned for my pleasure and utility.
Example: If I like something I doubleblink at it and it'll be used more in the future. Each texturemap and its creator is ranked and rated. If some other person shares my tastes in one area, skins they like will be scored up for me in another. Collaboratively filtered global decor.
It's not all fun and games. Contextual data is only a blink away, the train timetable provides external wallpaper for the station. I've configured my email to show up on any appropriate vertical space within a certain volume. It'll skip ahead to keep up with me as I walk. Passing people or cars are used as handy scrollers to keep me abreast of the latest news in the feeds, or incoming instant messages. I could input by subvocalising but I prefer a keyboard, and I could type on a virtual keyboard in the air but I prefer feedback, so keys appear on surfaces near my hands and I type on them.
My connectivity comes from the same nodes taking the pictures. Friendly locals fill in patches of both the wireless net and the continuous lowfi video that carpets the country. You need to know where things are in order to augment them -- and that's why we're here.
Billboards coat almost every surface in the City. It's only here, outside, I can check my mail without having to find an alleyway with a sufficiently low density of pedestrian eyeballs that it's not been postered.
For advertising's not a cheap business these days. The screens are bioLEP, microscropic fractals grown out of the walls like corel. The complex surface faces in no direction and all directions all at once, and is able to direct ads individually at passersby whilst shimmering a fractured collage everywhere else to confuse the community cameras.
And they have to confuse the cameras because if we could we'd block their intrusive 'casts, we'd null their audio, and we'd have the world how we liked it, every one of us.
Since billboard autorecognition doesn't work, and since the raw locations get flooded from the networks: we're trying a different tack. The idea being, if the glasses knew where the posters were, we wouldn't have to the rely on centralised reality augmentation, we could block the images at the eye.
Which, I get to at last, is why we're here. Putting a chip behind every single poster transmitting its location by radio isn't exactly legal, not while the marketing agencies put so much money into the lobbying groups. For the moment the question of what a corporation gets when they buy a billboard has been resolved in legislation: they get the surface, and they get the photons all the way to the optical nerve. Nothing less will do.
The chips are made in China, smuggled to the coast and brought inland. Karen and I are visiting a warehouse in a tiny industrial park to pick a couple up.
All of which turns out to be no problem, actually. A week later I'm enjoying the novelty of sitting at the window of our flat and catching up on my friends' journals on a decent size surface that until recently was a particularly obnoxious coffee advert.
I turn and give Karen a grin and a thumbs up. But god knows what she sees. We keyswapped ages ago and her glasses could have blitted my gesture into anything her translation filters suggest. She IMs back a smiley. So I know she's happy, too.