Friday, August 12, 2016

Augmented and Virtual Genealogy?

James Tanner at Genealogy's Star has been discussing the future of genealogy in a series of posts on The Dawn of the Genealogical Information Age.

Science Fiction author David Brin asks the question: How will augmented reality change us?
Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. [source]
Brin's focus is on whether AR spells doom or excitement. I have a preference for being optimistic. The two of them got me thinking, with the increasing amount of data available, and increasing technological advances, how will this impact the future of genealogy? In particular, augmented reality and virtual reality.
  • Instead of just QR barcodes popping up additional information on your phones, might future trips to cemeteries involve images of the deceased telling visitors about their lives. 
  • Augmented or Virtual librarians? I doubt a computer program can provide the personalized  help a living librarian can, but when all the staff are helping other patrons, an AR/VR librarian might be available to provide some assistance.
  • Will there come a day when the average person can do their own programming as easily as we can create webpages today, and generate simulations of their ancestors? Imagine the possibilities for family reunions.
  • Can you imagine a virtual cemetery version of FindAGrave? Will people be able to visualize walking through the actual cemetery? When they find their ancestor’s plot, perhaps they will be able to lay a virtual flower, or place a virtual stone, on the grave. Perhaps the program will have a link to relative graves – at other cemeteries to ‘walk.’ It won’t matter if the writing on the actual tombstone has long since been worn away if the image of it is in the database.
  • Will you be able to provide a computer program with a photo of your ancestor and military records, and they’ll insert the face of your ancestor into a battle they actually fought in. Many family historians would like to be able to visualize how their ancestors lived, and we might be close to being able to provide that experience.
  • Lots of genealogists are worried about the disappearance of microfilm, saying if you don’t know exactly where it is with indices, it’s much easier to find a record in microfilm than it is online. What about a virtual microfilm reader? If microfilm readers really do provide an easier browsing mechanism, why not recreate that mechanism virtually. 

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