How many of you have been in any of these situations?

a) You’re playing World of Warcraft and you meet a friend that you haven’t seen in a while. He says to you: “Hey! Check out this uber-leet epic 2-handed sword I picked up in Winterspring!”. You click on your friend with the mouse, select “Inspect”, and check out the rather impressive stats on his sword.

The Dresden Gallery in Second Life. Possibly one of the most  impressive buildings on SL.

b) You’re wandering around in Second Life when you come upon a large magnificent building. You wish to know more about this place, so you merely grab a nearby notecard which tells you everything you could possibly need to know about this edifice.

c) You’re creeping silently through the sewer level in Batman: Arkham Asylum and you spot a group of thugs. You need to know how many of them are armed, and whether they’ve noticed your presence. So you shift into “detective mode” and get a full-spectrum analysis of their bodies, including x-ray and infrared scanning.

d) You’re walking around an unfamiliar library. You’re not sure of the author, but you think you remember part of a title to the book you’re looking for. You go to the shelves upstairs and try to click on one of the shelves …

… and then you realize that you’re in real life and that clicking doesn’t work. :(

If you’re a die-hard gamer, chances are that you’ve done something like this in the past. You’ve noticed something of interest and tried desperately to access its metadata. You’ve looked for the thing to “click on”. Then you feel that moment of embarrassment and begrudgingly return to the “real world”.

This exciting and new type of virtual interaction is not too far off. In fact, it’s practically HERE. Augmented reality applications such as Wikitude from Mobilizy and Layar are already available on iPhone and Android devices.  These applications allow the user to view the world through a filtered lens of information and data.

Libraries are already racing to figure out how to use these services to help library patrons discover information all around us. In this blog entry, Ken Fujiuchi reviews some augmented reality apps that enhance networking in both business and social settings. Users may someday be able to pass along virtual business cards without killing a single tree! :) Lauren Pressley gives some examples of popular Augmented Reality Apps on her blog as well. A recent entry on The Strange Librarian’s blog also reviews some possible uses of Augmented Reality in libraries.

Personally, I’m anticipating the new wave of augmented reality applications for one reason. Because it looks like a video game. As the technology advances, the possibilities for augmented reality games increases. If you were to mix Augmented Reality with a multiplayer online game such as WoW, and you may one day be able to fight dragons in the middle of Manhattan.  Businesses could offer discounts available only to users who can vanquish the troll hiding behind the coffee bar. Libraries could add virtual spaces to their brick-and-mortar buildings. Are you browsing the “Mystery” section of your library? Perhaps you could help the virtual librarians track down a killer lurking in the stacks! Do your younger patrons need help finding a good story book? Maybe mommy’s mobile device knows where it can find a friendly dinosaur to help them track it down. (I’m just kidding, by this time, 5 year olds probably have their OWN cell phones)Can you even imagine what the Harry Potter section would look like in a fully augmented library?

The possibilities are endless, and so far, we’re still just scratching the surface. It will be interesting to see where this goes in ten years, or even FIVE. If we as librarians continue to stay ahead of the curve on this, it could revolutionize the way we look at libraries and at gaming.

For one thing, we’ll have to take down all of these “please turn off your cell phone” signs. ;)