Summer of Love

Why the hell not?

Kathleen Maher

Happy 4th of July. The U.S. is experiencing a horrific heat wave and fires rage in Northern California. And at the moment, human kindness seems to be in short supply—at least in world officialdom. 

Illuminate SF changes all that for at least a little while with their current installation in Golden Gate Park to commemorate the San Francisco’s Summer of Love, which dates officially back to 1967. Last year, the park and Illuminate collaborated on a light show and concerts in the park and this year, the light show is back by popular demand. Golden Gate park is freezing at night in June, so cuddling up in blankets to see the light show makes as much sense now as it did 50 years ago, and the technology is a heckuva lot better. The show is another example of how we are bringing digital technology out into real life.

Back then, in 1967 multi-media was emerging as a new art form.  It pretty much consisted of lighting effects made by mixing oils and food coloring on gels in front of lights and having a live band. Then laser happened, and things got really weird. The evolution of mixed media has not stopped.

At E3 this year, it was surprising to see how much reality has intruded on gaming life over the past couple of years. Now, one has to dodge zombiessludging through the halls (though this year, they were restrained from actually accosting folks). The booths now feature mazes that are like old fashioned spook houses,green screen adventure installations, and cos-play. The stereotype of the pizza eating gamer has given way to the Twitch athlete and international teams. It’s a very short step from gaming to augmented reality, but the worlds are staying distinct so far.

Gamers don’t go to AWE

The focus of the talks at AWE 18 was more about industrial applications, but the exhibit hall was exuberantly about art and fun, which does indicate where the money is going currently in AR. The money goes to manufacturing and to a lesser extent AEC. The love is going into art. The people building virtual gardens and virtual pterodactyls flying overhead are the cultural descendants of the hippies of 50 years ago.

Even PTC LiveWorx, which brings the Internet of Things (IoT), manufacture, and design into the discussion was full of play and fantasy. The laser lights were on, and all ideas were welcome. There is a clear business proposition for smart products and AR is often the way to know what’s on a machine’s mind.

It doesn’t always seem like it, but our computers are well on their way to disappearing completely, and that’s as it should be. Humans weren’t really built to sit in chairs and stare at screens, they’re built for using their bodies as well as their minds. This summer round of conferences makes it clear that more of us are being freed from the bonds of offices and adjustable rolling chairs and that trend will continue. Maybe it won’t all be light shows and love, but we will be out with people in the world. So maybe we can bring a little bit more love into our lives and work.

Technology doesn’t obey borders, and machines don’t have feelings. That’s up to us. Maybe we can try loving each other a little more, even if only during the summer — at least that’s a start.

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