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Bruce Sterling to keynote first augmented reality confab

Set for June in Santa Clara, Calif., the event is supposed to be the world's first for the broad discussion of the commercial and market opportunities of augmented reality.

You know a new technology has reached the big time--or jumped the shark, depending on your perspective--when someone builds a conference around it.

So the Tuesday announcement of the Augmented Reality Event, billed as the world's first commercial event about that technology, is the official sign that the times are a-changin' for AR.

Of course, anyone can cobble together a conference, and just because it exists there are no guarantees that it will be any good, or feature anyone worth listening to. But the folks behind the Augmented Reality Event have at the very least scored a coup with the announcement that legendary science-fiction author and journalist Bruce Sterling will be keynoting their confab, which is scheduled for June 2 and 3 at the Santa Clara (Calif.) Convention Center.

Augmented reality, if you're not familiar with it, is a fairly recent technology that allows digital information to be overlaid on top of more traditional media or products. For example, "Esquire" magazine recently featured an AR issue in which readers could download special software onto their computers, and then see videos related to content in the magazine when they viewed digital codes with their computers' Web cams. Similarly, Yelp's iPhone app, when used on the iPhone 3GS, uses that device's compass to overlay the names and ratings of restaurants and other establishments that are in front of the device on top of a live view from its camera. Toys, too, are seen as a fertile ground for the technology.

Toys, like this one from Mattel, are expected to be a hotbed of innovation in augmented reality. Daniel Terdiman/CNET

The event's Web site suggested that the conference will have at least 30 sessions--divided into business, technology and production tracks--on topics such as the current market scope of AR, as well as what's to come in the next few years, the latest AR technologies and innovations, a history of past projects, and more.

The event could be a disaster, or it could be a lot of fun. Or both. But I'll be there in June, so keep your browser tuned to this blog to find out more.