Augmented reality check with Galit Ariel

“I call myself a digital hippie,” Galit Ariel says. “Most people think that means I don’t shave my armpits, but what it really means is that I’m someone who believes that the greatest purpose of tech is to serve humanity and create a better human experience.”

To that end, the entrepreneur based at Amsterdam’s WeWork Metropool founded Wondarlands, a strategic consultancy headquartered in Amsterdam that advises companies on the implementation of augmented reality (AR). Just recently, she was tapped by the Dutch Innovation House to speak at premier tech conference SXSW.

You’d think that her target audience would run the gamut of tech and social media giants like Apple, Facebook, or Snapchat (yup, that beautifying face filter is actually a mainstream application of AR). But interestingly enough, Ariel has applied her background in studying how people interact with brands, spaces, and technology to target advertising agencies instead.

“These are the gatekeepers of pop culture,” she says. “They are ultimately the ones responsible for creating meaningful engagement and hooking people into the products and messages they deliver.”

Take Pokémon Go. It’s a great use of AR and takes user experience to another level. “But there’s no social or legal accountability,” Ariel points out. “People are invading private spaces, falling cliffs, drowning” just because they gotta catch ’em all!

And this is where Ariel steps in. She looks at the intersection of social demographics, economics, and culture, and advises clients to use AR as a platform for interaction, not disconnection. In the long run, she hopes brands will find new ways of incorporating AR into their products that benefit people both individually and collectively. She sums it up as “making reality great again.”

Ariel delves further into this topic in her first book, Augmenting Alice, which launched in Europe already and comes out in the U.S. next month. And, of course, the book comes with an AR element to it: readers can download a partner app that brings the infographics and visuals to life.

What about the future of AR? Will it eventually replace human interaction? Ariel says no.

“I trust humans and our cognition,” she says. “People want tech to elevate their reality, not replace it.”

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