Think of it this way: On one hand, you have the real world with its toilets, waiting rooms and traffic jams. On the other, you have the virtual or digital realm with its fantasy game worlds and vast data stores. On any given day, you'll probably catch yourself moving back and forth between these worlds, switching from the grossness of that public bathroom or the complexity of city traffic to colorful games and GPS street maps.
Wouldn't it be more effective to occupy the space between? That's what augmented reality is all about: overlaying our perception of the real world with digital information, while allowing us to manipulate that data as if it were physical.
For instance, you might slip on a pair of computerized goggles and, seeing a butterfly, pull up the article "How Butterflies Work" right there in your field of sight. Then, using a special force-feedback glove that simulates the feeling of touch, you flip the pages as if the article were a physical object floating in the air.
The technology continues to bleed into our daily lives. Products such as Apple's Siri and Google Goggles already bridge the real and the unreal in practical ways, allowing us to speak to computers and search the Internet with captured images. Countless smartphone applications now use GPS data to tailor information around questions like where to eat and even who to date.
Google's "Project Glass," which entered its testing phase in 2012, aims to unleash smartphone-powered augmented reality glasses on the world. But really, who wants that additional headgear? Wouldn't it be cooler to miniaturize that technology onto a single pair of contact lenses?
If that sounds too far-fetched and futuristic, then allow me to blow your mind for a second: A rabbit at the University of Washington has already worn a pair.