The only constant in the universe is change (Heraclitus more or less said this). It seems to me that the current technological paradigm that we live under is a transitory period. We are all transitioning to new ways of interacting with computers, new methods of producitivity and new visions for our technological future.
10 months ago I was writing parking tickets on a college campus, I’ve come a long way from those days and I got a lot more to go in the pursuit of my dreams and aspirations. The other night I had my first dream about the metaverse. In my dream, I saw it. I saw the metaverse, a new layer to reality, a place that will inhabit the minds of us all.
By no means am I an expert, heck I’m really just some guy with an obsession for the future and the technology that’s bringing it to us. In speaking with the great people I get to meet on my podcast, I find myself learning constantly. The future is indeed an exciting place. From the many talks I’ve had, I have begun to form a puzzle inside my head, a foggy construct that lives inside my mind; growing and building upon itself the more I learn about this technology. I think, one could spend a life time and still be unable to learn everything there is to know about this new medium of communication.
Virtual reality along with its complimentary technologies (drones, 3d printing, quantum computing) will usher in a new stage of evolution for mankind. It’s all a matter of when it happens really. This hypothetical end goal, this transition to a new transition will not occur overnight. There is a long road ahead, but we will get there. I predict that the markers for how this transition will occur will make themselves easy to spot in plain sight.
This post is about the evolution of human computer interaction through virtual reality. I’m going to tell you where we are currently, the 3 phases of interaction and ultimately, the multiple macro outcomes that can come from this technology.
Our current paradigm:
I remember watching an interview with John Carmack where he talked about the current state of technology. He talks about how we have been able to build these amazing 3D worlds and yet we are only able to enjoy them through flat screens and keyboards in front of us. What if you could only experience reality through a 15.6 inch window? My opinion is in line with Carmack’s. He believes the current state of affairs is awfully inefficient. Interacting with the computer world should be as seamless and perhaps even more seamless than interacting with reality. Inside these worlds we can be the creators and explorers we’ve inherently been born to be.
The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of time is probably one of the greatest games ever created. The other day, I got to experience a segment of my childhood inside virtual reality. Nostalgia and emotion flooded my body, when I found myself inside a world I used to stare at through the digital window of my TV screen. I went from looking at this world from a distance to being fully inside. It’s a feeling that is hard to describe. Cymatic Bruce played the Kokiri Forest demo for the Oculus and it made him want to play every single game he’s ever played all over again but in VR. I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to one day play Banjo Kazooie, Zelda Majoras mask and Mario Kart 64 inside VR.
Truth is, we haven’t even began Phase 1. Like Palmer likes to say ” We are still witnessing day zero”. When the first Oculus Rift consumer model gets released I will still be proclaiming it as day zero not until we reach the Haptic era.
Phase 1: The Haptic Era
In my mind, optics and binaural audio will get mastered and get constantly perfected as the phases of virtual reality occur around us. But even before we reach the haptic era, I think these two fields of VR will be very well developed.
What optics do with vision, haptics do with touch. Haptics is a field that will go hand in hand with virtual reality. The whole point of good a virtual reality experiences is the idea of connecting as many senses as possible. I predict that during the Haptic era, virtual reality will find its input device(s). These devices will allow the user to feel the textures, have a sense of “force” whether it be gravity or centripedal or meticlorian. A proper Jedi training simulation, will be exponentially better if the user is able to “feel” impact forces, sense . In my opinion a haptic glove (thanks for the idea, Ready Player One) is the ultimate input device for Virtual Reality. What the mouse has done for the desktop, Haptic gloves will do for virtual reality. The guys at Tactical Haptics are doing some pretty ground breaking work in the realm of haptics. I’ve also seen a vest that gives you feedback through air bursts shot at your body.
Omni directional treadmills with some form of force feedback should be standard thing. If i’m playing Jurassic Park VR, and a T-Rex stomps by, I want the ground below my feet to tremble.
One thing that I am really excited for is VR haptic suits or haptic clothing. Clothing that might mimick wind blowing (i’m not sure how), temperature, and impacts. If I am playing a boxing game inside of VR it would be amazing to feel (without pain) where my opponent is tagging me.
As a side note, I will be incredibly suprised if we do not master a way to implement voice commands inside virtual reality or eye tracking during the Haptic era.
Phase 2 : The Age of Biometrics
The merge of virtual reality and Biometrics will give us an unprecedented amount of knowledge about ourselves. With biometrics we will have the ability to measure, visualize and interact with our bodily functions inside of virtual reality. Imagine playing a horror game that keeps track of your heart rate, and the machine learns to time the scary shit according to how relaxed or on edge it might perceive you to be.
For gamers; the applications of biometric feedback are obvious. Let the human body not just become an extension of the controller but a controller itself. Imagine a mission impossible type game where you have to control your breathing in order to not activate the wall of security lasers in front of you. Or a sniper game that requires you to bring your body in complete sync in order to take that fateful shot.
For the casual consumers this could be huge as well. What if we could go to the doctor’s office to get our annual check up by simply using telepresence and biometric feedback so that doctors could take care of more patients and with better quality of care. Biometric feed back could be used for fitness apps as well.
Wii fitness has proven that people seek healthy alternatives to passive entertainment media. One day I want to be able to hike the Alps or the jungles of Borneo and have a clear record of my biometric activity over a that period of time. In essence, we could unravel a new way of maintaining and thereby enhancing our terrestrial vessels of flesh, water and bacteria.
Phase 3: The rise of neural computer interaction/ Humanity 2.0
One day I want to be able to transmit my thoughts directly onto the computer world. I want to be able to share my favorite dreams with the people around me, I dream of the day when I will be able to go up to you and say, hey Johnny! Do you want to go inside the dream I had last night? To which Johny will reply ” Fuck no! I don’t want to venture inside your fucked up mind Cris Miranda!”
I really want to control the video games with my mind already!
In this phase there’s no telling how we will access the metaverse. Will the metaverse be projected directly into our brains bypassing our eyes? Will we have nano implants attached to our pupils?
All I know is that we humans will begin moving away from what it means to be human in the minds of those who will decide to get left behind.
What good could come from this?
Here’s an idea. If humanity starts becoming this always connected, multi neural consciousness we will be able to make more rational decisions about the way we treat our planet, each other and we might have a fighting chance against the impending robot apocalypse. Our collective wisdom will uncover and defuse the robot plot to take over the planet and harvest us and our children’s chidren for biofuel for all eternity or until the expansion of the sun occurs.
I’ll end with this. All in all, technology could give zero fucks about our morals and ethics. It really is up to us to use technology to the benefit of mankind. Having coming to grips with the reality of human nature, that human beings can be both equally inspiring and terrifying is a fact of our current condition. For every good being done out there, there is just as much evil. Virtual reality can be used to expand our minds, enhance our view of reality and liberate us from the current monetary paradigm. At the same time virtual reality can be used to torture individuals, control the minds of the weak and distract the minds of the many. This is why I have made it my personal mission to create, support and push forward positive applications of this technology. There is no way I will be able to stop the inevitable evil that will be created with this tool but sitting on the sidelines of history with my arms crossed is not an option either.
Nothing will be impossible in the 21st century. I’m so happy to be alive to be able to witness it.
But Cris how will we know which phase we are in? Simple. If you hear your grandma, your barber, your mailman talk about Haptics or biometrics then there you have it, when the technology becomes ubiquitos to those who are more distant from technology then it means you are part of a certain phase. For example, tablets were laughed at, by my grandparents once but now they are a part of their lives and they are as ubiquitoes as newspapers. (actually I view newspapers as more of a novelty nowadays.)