Augmented reality allows our electronic devices to superimpose digital information on physical spaces. If that seems like a hard concept to get your head around, these two videos might help.

"If only drivers could see through walls, blind corners and other dangerous road junctions would be much safer," reports New Scientist. "Now an augmented reality system has been built that could just make that come true." Like so:

"The prototype uses two cameras: one that captures the driver's view and a second that sees the scene behind a view-blocking wall," continues New Scientist. "A computer takes the feed from the second camera and layers it on top of the images from the first so that the wall appears to be transparent. This makes it simple to glance 'through' a wall to see what's going on behind it."

That's not all augmented reality can do to buildings. Here's the N Building in Tokyo. It displays code that passers-by can view with their mobile devices, upon which they'll discover "up-to-date shop information, interactive advertisements and even display the tweets that are coming out of the building," as The Daily Beast explains. "You can also browse shop information, make reservations and download coupons."

Obviously, cars and shopping are not primary Shareable.net concerns, but augmented reality has huge implications for civic life and democracy — what if you were able to understand a product's environmental and social impact but just looking at it on the shelf through your iPhone? I've asked interactive producer Jack Graham to give Shareable.net readers a glimpse into the augmented future–look for his essay in March.

Jeremy Adam Smith


Jeremy Adam Smith

Jeremy Adam Smith is the editor who helped launch Shareable.net. He's the author of The Daddy Shift (Beacon Press, June 2009); co-editor of The Compassionate Instinct (W.W. Norton

Things I share: Mainly babysitting with other parents! I also share all the transportation I can, through bikes and buses and trains and carpooling.