Sunday 18 April 2010

Augmented conversations: the future is here

It seems like recently iPhones and iPads have become a staple of any conversation. First comes ‘How are you?’ then comes ‘How’s the weather?’ then comes ‘How’s your iPhone?’

Almost as a matter of protest, I do not own an iPhone myself. However, this weekend I had an experience that left me deeply impressed. For the first time, with the aid of an iPhone, I had what I would call an ‘Augmented Conversation.’

My friend, whom I had not seen for some time, had his iPhone out on the table. Fair enough, I thought, as long as you don’t start checking your texts instead of talking to me (my past experiences of phones interacting with face-to-face conversation have generally been negative). It wasn’t long, though, before the topic of conversation moved onto areas that were greatly enhanced by the use of the iPhone. While talking about his new job he could bring up the company website and show me some photos of his workplace. Chatting about running routes, I could bring up googlemaps to help describe the routes I recommended. Upon passing on the news about Demetri Martin’s 224-word palindrome poem, instead of just passing on a vague description of it, I could read it and feel truly awed.

And at the end, when it was time to go home, we could check what time the last tube was.

This ‘augmented conversation’ is a use of a smartphone I had not even considered, and it makes me a little less sceptical about iPhones and their merits. It also lead myself and my friend to an even more profound conclusion: we are living in the future. The advances in telecoms and computing that have made the iPhone have been gradual but their impact is unquestionable, and things that seemed like science fiction a few years ago are now, at this moment, reality.

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