Wired News has a story today about a group of artists and technologists that have cobbled together a “location aware” PDA-based tour of one of the less-traveled sestieri of Venice, Castello. Check it out. The system, still in an experimental stage, uses Bluetooth technology to inform the PDA of local attractions/points of interest, triggering pre-loaded content on the device. Judging from the accounts of the system, it sounds like this is really only a “proof of concept”, but it still makes me smile.
A couple interesting things about this.
The first has nothing to do with technology. One of the project’s missions was to pioneer ways to use information to romance Castello, and hopefully, draw tourists out of the main sightseeing areas and into less-frequented parts of the city. It’s a kind of touristic load-balancing that Venice desperately needs.
The other thing that stokes me is the prospect of using location-aware devices and object-recognition technology to allow destinations – like Venice – to tell their stories to travelers. It pierces the veil of ignorance that keeps a visitor from understanding the context, history and deeper meaning of where they stand.
There are numerous emerging technologies that will, without any doubt, transform the concept of “guidebook” in radical ways. Here, for instance, is a kooky looking “heads-up display” system that was experimentally deployed in Austria by researchers. It's built around “smart glasses” which interactively annotate your environment and tell you what you’re looking at. Warning: you’ll have to peer past the (formidable) ergonomic and aesthetic problems prototypes like these have and take it on faith that, eventually, you won’t need to walk around Piazza San Marco looking like The Terminator or a mutant grasshopper.