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When I get over to a Caribou Coffee, one of the things that I notice is something that’s also repeated in some of the parks of my youth: tables with pictures or checkerboards on them. I usually don’t think a lot of these, but in both my last ride throughout SW Philly and in a visit to a (new-to-me) Caribou, I wondered – as I watched others with mobiles, tablets, and laptops working – why isn’t there aan application that turns those surfaces into gaming or productivity spaces using augmented reality (AR)?

Now, probably framing it as I have, it would almost make sense that these areas should have some kind of augmented enablement overtop of these surfaces. I think of another Caribou where many people come in the evenings, especially on the weekends, to play board games. But, there are many times where game pieces are missing or the board just aren’t good enough to continue. Why not take advantage of the wireless infrastructure that’s already present (connected devices and WiFi) and then offer a free app that’s (a) locked to that franchise or franchise location, and (b) available to the user to play some suite of licensed games.

In practice, that could be the table that looks like a checkerboard in Caribou (see pic) as being able to play Checkers, Chess, Chinese Checkers, or other games that use this field – but there would be some licensing of the products of Milton-Bradley (Hasbro Board Games) for those official versions of those games along with a custom version of the Layar Browser. MB would be essentially responsible for making the tablet/mobile application – but they’d use Layar as the distribution mechanism for this and Caribou as the spatial instance where this would make the most sense.

I have to admit, it might look really strange to see people getting excited over a virtual gaming space to those looking from the outside, but can you imagine the transformation that this could do to those (essentially) unused tables?

Or, if that cafe were located in an area where many cafe-workers or businesses were around, instead of the tabletops being framed with games, you would see icons for Google Apps, MS Office, Log-Me-In, WebEx, and other collaborative ventures? So, you decide to meet your team in this cafe, and instead of having to figure out if everyone has the needed collaborative space, the virtual space is already setup by the table you sit at, you then authenticate to the WiFi for the cafe, then to your account, and without anyone in tables around you seeing papers sprawled on the tablet, all of this is being conducted in a virtual space.

If you will, I’d like to see these cafe spaces get to a place where there’s almost no need to carry more than a iPod Nano-sized device and then you can interact with the space. Adding the screen of a tablet, laptop, or gesture-sensing glasses would then take that space even further to being able to be manipulated.

Its a bit beyond the office, but at the same time, taking advantage of the air to create a bit of something decent and usable beyond the actual physical boundaries of a table.

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