Hiking with a Google Brain

Logbook 29 Oct. 2018 – How new technology might be used in hiking tomorrow

Outdoor life and artificial intelligence

Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

Technology is being used more and more in hiking and all kinds of gadgets, phones, GPS receivers, smart-watches and Bluetooth connected gear from shoes to drones could be part of the hiking experience for the generations heading out for the trails soon. I’ve sketched up what might be a next step… some kind of Google brain hikers wear or integrate with in even more radical ways – Here are a few examples of what such a artificial brain might make possible along the trails – ( not necesscary that it is something to wish for )

Hikers use of next generation of technology, A different reality along the trails:

Drawing of a woman hiker in digital water with a VR headset on
Girl hiking with a virtual reality headset

Wayfinding by connecting to dreamtime

An artificial brain will connect to the cloud any time it can, to update its reality on a kind of virtual dream-map of the landscape. It is a digital cloud-hosted reality that is a bit like a version of what the English writer Bruce Chatwin circled around in his book: The Songlines. Songlines are the storytelling landscapes and maps that traditional people have used to navigate along both in reality and their stories, for thousand of years.

A “songline” might be seen as a narrative and map that is our guiding reality, in the individual and collective metaphorical storytelling world we all live in, more than we realize. This reality might be very similar to what wandering nomads call Dreamtime . A reality that the internet is more and more starting to mimic or fuse with. Ancient cultures around the planet have integrated storytelling in places to find their way for thousand of years. New technology is about to learn from them

Enhanced reality

By wiring up and stimulating different cognitive areas in our brains, scientists today, around the world, experiment to create images that can interact with our perception and enhance both our experiences and impressions of the landscapes of understanding we move through.

The vision is that these systems will make it possible to “see” and experience, both physical and emotionally in new ways. It can boost the mood of people and maybe even soon our technology enhanced minds with dancing Disney figures ( if we have paid the licence ). For hikers it might help analyze and guide to edible plants and help hikers avoid the poisoning and endangered ones. All this might be possible either through direct connection or maybe first by hooking up to and feeding the hiker with information and knowledge from a waste global artificial intelligence through our senses.

Remote guidance

Drawing of hikers walking with phones connected to small clouds up in the air
Hikers with their phones illustration by Frits Ahlefeldt

The artificial brain might also make it possible to remote guide hikers through difficult passages or around challenges simply by accessing their brains. Estimating their challenges and helping them avoiding blocked trails, bears, floods or what-ever the system might consider too much of a challenge…

Social media and live streaming

Soon hikers on the trail will no longer need to stop to upload, share and debate in social media. Any time they want they can just share, access or stream from their hikers. We might even see more and more pro hikers, sponsored by followers that can connect to the live-stream, see and interact with the hikers on the trail, using similar and connected headsets back home. A bit like two phones connect through the network so people can talk or facetime, just way more advanced. So people back home can actually feel the cold, the wind, the fear, and see the grizzly bear approaching…

A bigger picture

Technology is coming to the hiking trails real fast

There are several things a digital enhanced headwear or artificial brain wear might help to aid the individual hiker with. But from the view of a global connected digital system it might be even more interesting what information and impressions the hikers can supply the system with. By analyzing the progress, well-being, and images captured by each hiker the system will be able to get a bigger picture of the overall state of both the trail, the amount of hikers using it. Where they face difficulties and what facilities they prefer to use. The system might also be able to capture and analyze information about things like biodiversity, changing weather-patterns and the migration routes and state of the ecology in the areas that hikers pass through. In this way the hikers might work much more in the future as a kind of citizen-scientists, collecting and helping create a much more detailed map, of the areas the hiking trails pass through.

Will it create a new kind of digital junkies on the trails?

Connecting to nature and being one with nature is one of the most important and best part of the experience when hiking. We connect to the landscape and the hikers around us, smile and give high fives,  instead of, like most in the city, to the screen in your hand.  Today hiking can be a relief and an escape from the digital reality of smartphones, updates, social media and the massive stream of news and information most of us are hooked up to in the city.  There is clearly a risk that we will loose the most important part of hiking, by trying to be connected to everything, even when walking. Being here and being present when walking is a challenge even without a phone in your hand… if your whole head is wrapped into one it is not going to be any easier.

Some might prefer to stay home instead, just putting on the mask, the headwear, the virtual helmet or what-ever and head into virtual reality from a chair instead. So even though the technology is mind-blowing in all ways… it is maybe also the last thing we stressed out, hurried, ever connected beings need to connect to when finally away from it all.

Drawing of a Strange extra head-layer, an artificial digital brain, connected as a head. Design and drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt
Sketch, wondering how a Google AI enhanced headwear might look tomorrow.. Design and sketch thought by Frits Ahlefeldt

Text and drawings by Frits Ahlefeldt, Hiking.org

See all my drawn thoughts about hiking and technology here

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