Behold: the most high tech column ever

Steve Dinneen
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Why is there a picture of Nelson’s Column on Geek Speak? This is supposed to be about technology, and Nelson’s column hasn’t been considered high-tech since 1840, when it was erected by a new type of winch. Probably. I don’t know anything about Nelson’s Column.

What I do know is that you would be wrong to doubt the technological credentials of this column. I have been assured that this picture is the most high-tech thing that has ever been printed in piece of newspaper editorial. It might be the most high tech thing ever. I will let you be the judge of that.

But if you want to enjoy it, you will have to work for it. Get your smartphone out and download an app called Aurasma from the App Store or the Android Marketplace. (If you don’t have a smartphone, stop reading now. This column isn’t for you. Go back to your hut and stare into the fire, or whatever it is you do for entertainment.) Now, open Aurasma and point it at Nelson’s Column. Not the real thing, the picture below. What will it do? I’m not telling you. Like I said, you have to do a bit of work to enjoy this column – it’s a two way street. Download the app and find out.

You see that? That is called augmented reality (assuming, of course that it works. The test-run was OK but I’m at the mercy of the technology. If it doesn’t work, don’t blame me. I’m sorry for wasting your time. Get over it.) So now you might be thinking: “Great. City A.M. has a picture of a monster flying around Nelson’s Column. That’s very clever. Buy yourself a biscuit.”

But pretty soon, this technology will be everywhere. It will make the adverts in Minority Report seem tame (you don’t know what Minority Report is? Again, stop reading. You probably aren’t enjoying this column anyway. Go and do some gardening instead). While augmented reality has been around for years., it usually involves pointing your phone at a barcode. What Aurasma does differently is allow almost any static image to be overlaid with augmented reality. The technology, designed by Cambridge-based software giant Autonomy, is already being integrated into adverts for movies – point your phone at certain posters on the tube and it will show the trailer (I believe it works for Bridesmaids but don’t let that put you off). Soon car adverts will show a Ferrari driving at full speed driving towards your face. It will be both terrifying and brilliant. One day you will be able to point your phone at ugly people and it will make them attractive. Eventually you won’t need a phone at all, augmented reality will be automatically added to everything you see. The world will be like it already is, but better. Just remember where you saw it first.

Of course, if you are reading this online, you won’t know what I’ve been talking about. There will be no picture of Nelson’s column. There will probably be no evidence this flying monster ever existed in the first place. Maybe I’ve been making it up. You’ll never know. You should have picked up a copy of City A.M.