Collaboration and Augmented Reality with (Cocktails) and Wikitude

Drink Image3

Above is the promotion image for my map in Wikitude, scroll down to the bottom of this blog if you would like further information on it, (without having to read my collaboration insights and ramblings…)!

When I first worked in the Interior Design industry, all we had for document, information sharing and collaborative tools were email and FTP server sites, (the latter being controlled by the IT department within our company, we were lucky enough to afford and have a really good IT department who kept things running in those days).  We worked on international projects, passing documents back and forth to the FTP servers, (which could sometimes be a tad glitchy, a bit like a grainy version of a 1980’s episode of Neighbours compared to HDTV today)!  There were no handy messages popping up in the corner of the screen to say, ‘hello this document has been updated,’ etc, we had to regularly check our email……which was also rather slower then too, and well mobile phones were just phones, even text messages were a novelty!  It is unbelievable how far the internet has changed in such a short time since then, especially leaps forward for collaborative tools.  Today if we want to work collaboratively and share large files using FTP type sites, all we have to think is, ‘I’ll just send that by Dropbox,’ or similar without even giving the process a second thought.  Dropbox is easy to download, it’s free up to a certain amount of storage and nice easy and simple to use and does not require an in house IT department to run it!  This technology is now available literally at our fingertips for personal or business use!  It’s also very affordable for small businesses that require large amounts of storage too.  The internet now has some brilliant collaborative tools which means we can now share a wealth of information in many different ways on different electronic devices, for business, for pleasure in fact anything that we can possibly think of!  As a result ways of working have changed, remote working is now more possible and faster than ever.  However it also applies to information exchange and communication whether it is in the same building or continents apart. Remembering what it used to be like is a tonic to any hesitation I have had to exploring these current collaborative ways of working!

Tools for sharing information that we as a group, have been exploring recently include: Google Docs, Google Hangouts, Twitter, shared Google Maps and applications such as Wikitude.

An Interior Design project I worked on last year is an example of how we are using and integrating collaborative technologies. The last project I worked on, I worked with my colleague from a remote location.  My colleague, who was based in London shared project documents with me using Dropbox, (this article explains how to use Dropbox as a collaborative tool and positives and negatives, How to Use Dropbox as a Killer Collaborative Work Tool).  We also used Skype as a main communication tool, (as well as the, ‘old,’ mobile phone for quick chats, we used our mobile phones mainly to check email, Skype, Dropbox)! For this project, we were working on large specification documents, (which have to be produced generally for interior design projects), and were using Dropbox to share project files.  However it meant that we could not work on the document at the same time otherwise it would cause conflicts between the files.  It would have been invaluable if we could have done this, (due to time constraints and the large amounts of information we needed to input).  How I wish I had begun to explore Google Docs sooner, it would have been the perfect additional technology to work on this sort of project.  If we had used a mix of Google Docs for all the technical specification information and Dropbox for all the large file presentations and visuals, (made in professional graphic programs), together with Skype and mobile phone Apps this would have been a more dynamic mix. The Google Docs session that we worked on in the lecture wasn’t successful as we all were having fun with it and there were too many people creating changes to keep control of the information!  However when the document has a particular purpose amongst a small work team of 2 or 3, the outlook  and focus of the user changes, especially when the document has to be produced for a paying client! So I must say that I am now a fully fledged fan of Google Docs and if I ever work on another Interior Design project remotely or not, I shall certainly be using them.

Phone applications are also radically changing the way we can collaborate and share information, I have recently experienced exploring Wikitude.  At first I wasn’t too sure about it, the whole thing was slightly unnerving, when I researched I found an article such as this: Twin towers rise again in slightly creepy-feeling use of augmented reality.  Also I felt it had a foreboding of Orwell’s 1984!  I was not alone in having these thoughts I found a blog: The Fallen Mighty, that echoes some of the thoughts going through my head:

”Writing this as I am on George Orwell’s death-day, it’ll come as no surprise that I find this lamentable, especially because the instant availability of great gobbets of information also means that info can easily be manipulated for commercial and/or malign reasons. And returning to Anderson’s piece, even self-accumulated data – which is not necessarily the same as factualinformation, right? – can be used by data miners, or ‘pirates’ as I call them, to bombard you with sales pitches for anything that might improve your mood, bowel movements or sleep patterns etc., i.e. in much the same way as Google already picks up on the content of your emails, and Twatter your tweets (well not mine, obviously), Farceberk your cute snaps of little Johnny building a snowman and sell it to advertisers who then bombard you etc., etc. We may also become so enwrapped in our virtual or ‘enhanced’ realities that we are unable to distinguish it from the real one, indeed it may become the real one.”

The part that disturbs me the most is how much information is available to companies, hidden audiences, etc through us accessing and using these applications?  This does unnerve me, it is true that on sites such as Facebook I am annoyed by adverts and posts which are directed and unwanted to my account from activity on the site.  Should we blithely carry on, or should we be questioning much more about how much information we are sharing about ourselves and who can access it?  This always nags away at the my back of my mind every time I encounter a new technology.  I think we should always learn to embrace new things but also to question them as much as possible also, I think every site we share any sort of information on should have a VERY clear and dedicated page that describes exactly what we are letting ourselves in for!

However despite these wary feelings I couldn’t help but like Wikitude, it’s amazing that we can go to an unfamiliar city and wave our phone about to find what we are looking for, a certain type of restaurant or even where the cash machines are located. Generally as I searched the internet I have found that there is a lot of positive writing about Wikitude, The Wicked Wikitude App and also Wikitude Augmented Reality browser and BlackBerry Messenger – cool or creepy?

I then decided the only way to make a cool or creepy decision was to create my own collaborative map world using Google Maps and Wikitude and invite people to join in! To understand something you have to experience it, so I thought it would be a good idea to make a map of all my favourite places to eat and drink in Liverpool as I love going out there!  At the moment there are plenty of websites and reviews on restaurants and bars, however I thought it would be beneficial to make a personal map so that any friends or colleagues visiting the city would have a quick of what the, ‘locals,’ and also previous visitors really recommend.  It also might help myself and my friends and I negotiate the back streets of Liverpool after a good few cocktails, without jumping into a taxi for all of 2 mins discovering where we actually wanted to go to was just around the corner……)!!


Above is the Icon that is displayed beside my map in Wikitude.

I am going to share the information about my map with friends on Facebook and also by Twitter and will be interested to see who joins in. The map is invite only so that I have control over who will be able to edit it.  So if you have been out anywhere in Liverpool and think it was totally fabulous and worth putting on the map let me know and I’ll send you an invite.  So far most of my favourite venues are mapped because of the quality of the cocktails……I have published my map, it’s now on Wikitude, (download the free app to your phone), if you look in Food and Drink it will be there it’s called: Cooltastic Liverpool, (just because I love a good night out in the fab and cooltastic Liverpool)!



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