Forget Oculus Rift and Leap Motion, forget Google Glass and augmented reality – they aren’t the future! In fact, let’s not even wait for Microsofts’ Hololens to hit the streets… Instead, take anything you fancy out of sl: your favourite car, virtual pet, inspirational sim – heck, you could even grab hold of me; slip on a pair of Magic Leap specs, and watch amazed as the virtual world becomes a tangible part of your real life experience!
This is exactly what i’ve been waiting for – up until now, the major downside of the potential alternative methods for interfacing with sl is that they require you to give up the freedom that the simplicity and accessibility of a keyboard and mouse – and possibly microphone – permit, in favour of strapping on an electronic blindfold, whilst waving your arms around madly in a manner that is guaranteed to damage something, (our credibility, if nothing else). Once we’ve strapped on our Oculus goggles and Leap Motion wristbands, we become little more than slaves – every movement we make is transmitted to our twitching avatar, and we’re completely oblivious to the world outside the virtual one, at least until an over-enthusiastic gesture sends us flying through the nearest open window. The perils of virtual immersion are something i’ve written about in the past, and as far as i’m concerned, it’s a pretty big obstacle to the technology becoming anything like mainstream, or human-friendly.
On the other side of the coin, we have augmented reality – a sort of
benign assimilation into the Borg link to the Googleverse – great for taking sneaky bikini pictures at the beach, but really not that great a success at integrating the real and virtual worlds.
What i’ve wanted for a long time now, is exactly what Magic Leap is promising – something along the lines of this bus stop, but portable and personal, and that’s very exciting indeed. Just think of the possibilities: bring your favourite sl nightclub or interest group right into your front room; have your virtual friends sat right next to you on your rl sofa; look out of your window to see the rolling hills, or urban dystopia of your favourite sim through the glass. Why stop at that? What’s to stop you furnishing your real world home with virtual furniture and ornaments? OK, it’s not very practical, but you’ll never need to dust it, and whenever you feel like a change, there’s a whole host of possibilities in your inventory to play with. No garden? Not a problem – just plant a virtual one in the corner of your bedroom; hang it from the ceiling if you want… and you’ll never need to water, prune or compost!
What really appeals to me is the method that Magic Leap is proposing – projecting images directly on to the retina. This opens up all sorts of potential – virtual objects will look as tangible as real ones, we won’t have to refocus – as with Google Glass – to see them, and because we can see the real world all the time, there’s little danger of the sort of accidents that might occur with an Oculus headset making us blind to our environment.
The most fascinating part for me though is the news that Neal Stephenson – the guy who pretty much came up with the concept of the metaverse and virtual worlds, when he wrote his novel, ‘Snowcrash’ – the unofficial bible of the techno-illuminati – has joined the Magic Leap team as Chief Futurist, (who wouldn’t want a business card bearing that job title, and who wouldn’t want to join a company that describes its people as: story-tellers; rocket scientists; artificial intelligence gurus; software ninjas; computing; hobbits; movie freaks; mathematical artists; whole-earthers; psychedelic physicists; people people and music lovers – it almost sounds like Linden Lab in their pioneering days). You can read Stephenson’s own take on the technology here.
Putting together a blue-skies thinking company together with a cyberpunk visionary, a dash of technological wizardry, a pinch of genius and just a touch of madness, sounds to me like the perfect recipe for something incredible.
And guys, if you’re looking for beta testers… give me a call!
Gotta make a new delivery
Ones and zeroes through your brain
Glitter Wizard – Snow Crash