Voices in Our Heads: ARGs, Implants, and the Future of Social Technology
The last time we saw him, he was commuting to work, watched by advertisements as he went on and off the grid. Today, he’s at the optometrist, having his eyes checked.
Ibrahim isn’t here for corrective lenses, he’s always had 20/20 vision. Instead, he’s having his Oculine checked. Oculine is an Augmented Reality Game (ARG) implant, allowing Ibrahim to engage with a wide variety of virtual attractions in his daily life. He used to wear the glasses like everyone else, but they were cumbersome things and gave people eyestrain. Now? Oculine is almost invisible, a transparent companion which enhances reality as you go about your day.
The doctor touches the side of Ibrahim’s face, tracing the contours near his temple. Finding a light nub beneath the skin, he presses a humming, blinking instrument against it. An amber light flashes on the instrument and the doctor makes a small adjustment, using a radial dial on the side. The light flashes again, this time green, and the optometrist pulls back, satisfied.
“It’ll take a couple of hours before all its functions realign, but you should be fine now. If it gives you any difficulty while you’re sleeping, let me know.”
Ibrahim nods, gently touching where the nub is.
He makes his way out of the doctor’s office, smiling with a light wave to the receptionist. Outside, he blinks a couple of times, waiting as his implant adjusts to the sun. He pauses, glancing back at the window of the doctor’s office. There’s an ad — one of the kinds that watches you — showing off a new pair of contacts with built-in ARG functions. They’re not corrective in any way, just less intrusive than Ibrahim’s implant. Perhaps that’s the route he should have gone?
He starts a walk down the street, pondering the options. The implant is forever. Aside from routine maintenance and upgrade packages, he never has to buy it again — short of a drastic upgrade to the technology. At least he’s good for another 5-10 years. Contacts? They wear out every six months or so. Of course, there’s always the option of glasses, but he just doesn’t feel comfortable wearing them.
He slows, approaching a cafe. A mascot forms on the sidewalk in front of him, waving eagerly, bleating out an invitation to “Come and stay awhile! Our chicken parm sandwich is just $12.99 with a pop!”. The mascot is… headless, however. New angle? Edgy advertising? No.
Ibrahim rubs his temple. After a second, the mascot’s head loads – the image of a cartoon rabbit. Just the ARG implant acting up again, as usual.
The mascot holds out a card and Ibrahim takes it, his fingerprints coded to interact with an otherwise intangible objects. Force feedback tells him the card is “real”, despite substance. He turns it over and notes the address of the shop, a notification in his retina flagging it as a to-do item for later. The card vanishes and Ibrahim’s back on his way. He’s not hungry, but maybe tomorrow.
By the time he’s home, it’s 18:00 and his implant has catalogued forty or so notifications, from email (yes, it’s still around) to friends he unwittingly passed on the street who tried to flag him down but failed to catch his notice. He sighs; realizing most of them are from his new, overeager co-worker, Robert. The implant responds to his mental stimulus, opening a security preference. He sets Robert’s notifications to “off” and tells the implant to never notify Robert when they’re nearby each other. It could just be first week excitement, but Ibrahim somehow wonders if it’s more than that.
Just then, an important flag comes up, flashing red. He plants his palm against his forehead and groans, heading for the bathroom. “Date with Darryl at 19:00”, it reads. He’d better hurry.