MODULE 8: MULTIPLE MODES TO REALITY

VIRTUAL REALITY-AUGMENTED REALITY

Multiple Modes to Reality-Virtual, Augmented Reality

This will be our last topic of the semester so it’s only appropriate we look at the emerging realities—the immersive, but isolating virtual reality of Oculus Rift (including the Samsung system in my office you can check out) or the augmented reality seen in the Microsoft vid a couple of weeks ago.

In both cases the goal is to replace the screen-keyboard experience of the PC (or game console/phone) with something more portable, more attuned to normal movements such as hand gestures.  Virtual reality systems by definitions must be immersive since their goal is to replace reality with a digital reality.  This has been the dream since Star Trek’s holodeck (see nice Wikipedia entry at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodeck) .  In VR the user is immersed in the digital reality, theoretically with all senses being equally functional as in the real world.  However in contemporary tech this involves a isolated headset with screen.

As Castronova, Yee and others have noted in work on games and Second Life, the brain quickly assumes what it senses is real.  It is quite common for people to get motion sickness while in VR headsets.  The bulk and control-interface issues keep VR on the fringe, though Facebook has sunk a huge sum of money into VR as the new platform for social media.  A good example of VR can be seen in the Steam vid at https://youtu.be/qYfNzhLXYGc?t=4.  Note the isolation from reality.

By contrast, augmented reality (AR) uses projection to place aspects of digital reality into physical reality.  A good example would be the recent Microsoft Hololens HoloTour demo vid https://youtu.be/pLd9WPlaMpY?t=2, with an excellent summary in the ColdFusion vid https://youtu.be/NwY-6sQDYnk?t=9.  As ColdFusion notes, it is intentionally designed with reality integration as a goal.  Having said that, note that in both cases they want to move you from reality to the digital form.  Given the huge $$$ being poured into this, robust functional versions are likely by 2019 (as in commercially available).  This leaves several questions, not the least is what will happen to the smartphone makers as phones disappear.  Again note that this fits well with the Microsoft demo vid we saw before [https://youtu.be/w-tFdreZB94?t=6].  Note the lack of any phone, with flextablets as work spaces.

Whichever technology, the issues of addiction to digital forms and all the other issues we’ve seen this semester will be amplified.  We will discuss the potential for amplified stress points in our last Hangout session Wednesday—think back to the Catfishing episode and online dating—and now mix that in with the Steam and/or Microsoft demos–how does that change the whole pattern of social interaction, with avatars?  Who would be the ‘real you’?  How big of a jump into a digitized version of “Surrogates” [https://youtu.be/UGwQ74cH5O0?t=7] ?  See you on the other side.

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