Foolish spectacles

tumblr_mkkouun8aN1rfshx0o1_1280_largeAll a little predictable… the inevitable annual webfest of April fool’s jokes – the 21st century’s spin on the friendly japes of a less tech-savvy generation, where more than ever before, we see the big commercial players muscling in on the harmless fun, turning it into yet another marketing opportunity.

Then the whole tiresome business of endless reblogging and retelling of ‘the best’ of the tricks and tales – all of which, i promise, you’ll be spared in this post!

As i ploughed through the morass of posts and reposts, one thing did catch my eye – albeit in the comments to yet another post of links to April Fool’s gags – and it was a point pretty well-observed. Many of this year’s crop of spoofs concerned technology, announcing new – at times, almost believable – innovations in the world of gadgets and computer wizardry, eliciting a comment that the last laugh may well be had by those companies that take an innovative look at today’s wacky ideas and turn them into tomorrow’s money-spinning reality.  Essentially, what may seem laughable today, when looked at from one point of view, may well have practical merit when viewed from a different angle.

Let’s consider, for example, many aspects of sl that we might currently scoff at if suggested they could have applications within the real world context, but who is to say that concepts and ideas spawned within the virtual world cannot successfully migrate into rl, particularly given the rate at which technological change is occurring. Who would have thought, for instance, that 3D printing would ever be anything but a clunky and expensive niche product, with little application for the home user? Yet, talented designers of jewellery in sl are now finding that 3D printing is an accessible and affordable medium for producing real world copies of intricate virtual accessories. With motion capture and hand/eye tracking becoming ever-more commonplace, it’s just a matter of time before somebody comes up with an innovative method of linking sl to rl applications, and i don’t think we’re even scratching the surface of what’s possible yet. It may well be that virtual worlds are on the cusp of a renaissance – making the impossible, possible!

glass_001That’s not to say that the days of logging in to sl, rather than taking the train to the office, are just around the corner – although it’s quite possible – but i’m sure that there are other applications for technology to explore that are inspired by sl. Google Glass has been in the news recently, with all sorts of fears about invasion of privacy – that, i think is an issue all in itself – but augmented reality has an awful lot of synergy with what we’re already used to in sl. The commentator whom i mentioned above suggested that they looked forward to the day when the Google Glass wearer would have the opportunity to see a person’s sl avatar superimposed over their real self – personally, that strikes me as a terrible idea, but imagine being able to to see the names of those around you, hovering above their heads, just as in sl…  something that’s eminently feasible, even with the technology that we already have.

There are those of us who would shrink from such an intrusion – but think of a world in which we could instantly access rich sources of information, similar to those available to us in sl, about the people around us. It’s reasonable to assume that, as in the virtual world, we could choose what to disclose and how we’d like to be seen by others… think what having access to an avatar’s personal profile, favourite landmarks and interest groups means to us in sl and extrapolate that to a real world context – that would have a profound and lasting effect on society and the way in which we relate to each other.

There are many who feel that the internet is isolationist – that it builds barriers and divorces us from the essential, interpersonal interaction that defines human relationships – it seems to me that sl gives us the tools to tackle that particular problem… all it takes is a bit of imagination and some clever technology.

I’m not joking!

s. x

Well on the way,
Head in a cloud,
The man of a thousand voices talking perfectly loud
The Beatles – The Fool On The Hill

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