On Becoming a Reality Architect: Exploring the Power of Connection Between People and Algorithms (TEDXSiliconAlley talk)

Fri, Oct 28, 2011

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1) Like most of us I wear a lot of hats. And I frequently work under a designer title. But recently someone said to me, “So you’re a Reality Architect.” I found the suggestion intriguing in part because I have been thinking about what it means to have agency in the algorithmic landscapes of the future that Kevin Slavin describes in his awesome TED talk, How Algorithms Shape the World. And, Reality Architect, if it implies anything, it implies a lot of agency and that is very appealing. But what does a “A Reality Architect do?”

2) When a very brilliant friend came up with this tag line for me, Tish Shute, Reality Architect, “She puts the reality back in Augmented Reality,” I began to become quite enchanted with the idea.

3) My career began with motion control photography creating visual effects for film and television. The Motion Control era which includes Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Terminator, Star Trek, 2010, brought us many of the early design fictions for augmented reality.

4) With the arrival of smart phones I focused on the mobile local experience and making AR a reality. I co-founded Augmented Reality Event and ARWave – a completely open federated, realtime updating system for geolocated data of any sort.

5) But the AR dream has a dark side. This is a still from Keichi Matsuda’s great dystopic vision of AR’s future. Kevin Slavin pointed out in his talk, Reality is Plenty Thanks, that AR as visual layers over reality can obscure what is best about reality rather than enhancing it.

6) Recently I have been exploring what it means to make reality more interesting. Meet Gatsby is a location aware networking startup that I love. Gatsby orchestrates small world moments and creates contextually aware opportunities and serendipity in real life.

7) But we already have experts at making reality more interesting they are called Reality Stars. And when I say I want to make reality more interesting, I have no ambitions to be a reality star. Technology and Story telling are my passions.

8) OKCupid is a startup that has been making reality more interesting and solving dating problems with a combination of data, math and story telling.

9) We are entering a new area of social intelligence where people and algorithms are interacting in interesting new ways. OKCupid has been getting a lot of attention for offering social intelligence that can help us play better in our dating lives. And by connecting social graph, interest graph and location Meet Gatsby hopes to creates new opportunities in our daily activities beyond dating.

10) The combination of math, data and story telling is also a key to a new era of corporate intelligence. Quid works with Government and big corporations, “augmenting our ability to perceive this complex world,” to help them make better decisions on big questions in a complex world.

11) Sean Gurley of Quid at Strata NY described understanding complexity as a dimensionality problem. And, where the dimensionality reduction powers of Math meet the human powers of visualization and story telling powers of people is where insight arises. This is where I think, perhaps, the work of a reality architect emerges. An alternate title for a Reality Architect might be a Data Story Teller?

12) There is also a new space of personal intelligence emerging. Quantified Self, Self Tracking and Start Ups like, MyMee – that transforms “symptoms into empowering data,” are giving us new tools to understand ourselves and unravel pressing problems like allergies that frequently leave Drs drawing a blank.

13) Moodscope adds the power of sharing and benchmarking to the personal intelligence equation. “Lift your mood with a little help from your friends?

14) I am beginning to realize I know a lot of Reality Architects. Brian Krejcarek from Green Goose is designing simple fun sensors that turn everyday things into opportunities to play and give us new ways to play life together and be happier people.

15) There is also an interesting community of practice emerging around Habit Design, Nick Crocker demonstrates in, Floss the Teeth You Want to Keep, that there are a bunch of little hacks that exist to improve your ability to change.

16) The wonderful designer Asye Birsel through her project Design the Life You Love (the illustration above is one I did from her recipe) is teaching us organizing your life is not unlike other design problems. If you can visualize it you can change it.

17) With everyone carrying a powerful sensor device in their pockets, the World is Now a Platform for Story Telling. HipGeo keeps track of your movements and then spits out a slick, animated travel diary. Narrative Science is a company that among other things can turn excel spread sheets into compelling stories for executives.

18) But to return to design fictions again. One thing interesting about the HUDs in Iron Man is the emphasis on dialogue, and the sentient portion of the HUD as a character. The Aesthetics of Artificial Intelligence is increasingly directed at the interaction between algorithms and people. SIRI, for example, has a more highly developed character than Google voice. So the Aesthetics of AI is something I think aspiring Reality Architects might want to be think about and will probably play a significant role in future job descriptions and job titles we are yet to think of.

19) There is lots more I could say particularly about the importance of agency and putting people at the center of their data – please check out The Locker Project. But here are some thoughts on what I hope Reality Architects will do.

Create tools (not just maps and visualizations) to make reality more reliable, more constructable, and more useable.

20) Build technology that helps us live extraordinary lives. Situationist is an app that “injects our present lives with the unexpected.”

21) Create more opportunities, for serendipity, and fun in our daily lives. And last, but not least, never forget the potential of the phone toss!

Thank you @chrisgrayson and @kellyhadous for organizing TEDXSiliconAlley – great work!

categories: Ambient Devices, Ambient Displays, Ambient Findability, architecture of participation, Artificial general Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Data, Augmented Reality, Big Data, culture of participation, data science, evolutionary technologies, Instrumenting the World, internet of things, Linked Data, Mixed Reality, mobile augmented reality, mobile meets social, Mobile Reality, Mobile Technology, new urbanism, Open Data, Real Time Big data, Semantic Web, Smart Planet, social gaming, social media, sustainable mobility, technological singularity, ubiquitous computing, Web Meets World
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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Sarah Nettleton Says:

    Reality Architect, I like it. I call the opposite “talk-atecture” as it is usually fluff, or ideas that sound great, but do not work in the real world.

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