Using Mixed Reality to Create Places

Using Mixed Reality to Create Places

El Pulpo Mecanico
El Pulpo Mecanico

El Pulpo Mecanico, which graced a Maker Faire Bay Area I attended -- I think it was in 2014.

Another reason why I wanted to sprinkle some mixed reality around the neighborhood: all those futuristic technologies I've been talking about -- AR, VR, IoT -- are still trying to claw their way out of the vaporware swamp. 

So it's a legitimate question: Is all this Mixed Reality stuff bullshit or what?

Ironically, the worst people to ask are the folks who are already deep into these technologies. They're already committed and conflicted. For them, it's already a career choice. 

I've seen this phenom up close as a journalist. The insiders are in too deep. The skeptics are often just as committed to the status quo, or simply ill-informed, or reluctant to be the naysayers. Nobody wants to be the person who puts down Twitter, or Instagram, or, to go way back, the internet.

So... declare a tie? Try to play it right down the middle?

Not this time. I wanted to try these technologies out for myself. Take some of them out for a spin -- to see if they enabled something fresh, something that gives you a new view, a new angle. 

This DIY approach is easier because it's gotten easier to access the required tools: open source software is free, the electronic hardware it runs on is cheap from China; and the DIY and Maker movements are telling us that reasonable people with the patience to watch the right YouTube tutorials can put it all this stuff together. (FYI: that's the reason for the lead illustration for this post. El Pulpo Mecanico graced the first Maker Faire Bay Area I attended.) 

My plan: to actually assemble something Mixed Reality-ish and try it out in real life, in a real place.  I wanted to see if I could make a difference: help "make a space a place" -- a phrase I was hearing now that I was following a few placemakers on social media.   

And it had to be real, on location: something with actual silicon chips, and code, a little bit of electricity, and internet connectivity.   

Hacker journalism: Watch my back, I'm going in!

We all know that the internet has started to suck politically, and socially, and privacy-ly, but when you want to learn how to do something, it's still awesome, and getting awesomer. 

Maybe there really isn't any there there in mixed reality, but I didn't want to take someone else's word for it. And I didn't have to. Because it's now possible for a journalist to break out some technology and design a test or a prototype.

Hacker journalism. 

I started to assemble a mixed reality hardware and software toolkit for my placemaking journey. 

My first purchase: an electronic brain, a quarterback.  

What this has to do with Placemaking

A tiny, cloud-connected brain