Technology has amazing potential to help us be more human. And with virtual worlds, we have the ability to shape our embodiment and create environments that convey a great deal of emotional bandwidth. There are many challenges in building such worlds, and we need to view these new spaces with a fresh perspective. But I believe the unique affordances of virtual worlds will make all of our work worth it in the end.
In the future, I see the meeting of augmented reality and virtual worlds as a key intersection. Once we have the ability to view the world around us through “augmented reality glasses” that combine the physical and virtual in our daily lives, things will get really interesting.
And I have no doubt that such technology will eventually arrive. It’s just a matter of time.
For a mind-blowing vision of what this future may look like, check out this video called “Augmented City.”
This brilliant video was created by Keiichi Matsuda, a designer and filmmaker who studies the implications of emerging technologies on human perception and the physical environment. Notice how the guy in the video can shape his environment, combining virtual architecture with the physical world around him. I love the use of the yellow hashmark lines as a visual cue for “don’t try to walk here!” A very clever way to safely indicate borders between physical spaces and the virtual.
If you’re wondering why the video looks a little funny, that’s because it was filmed to be viewed in 3d using red/blue anaglyph glasses. You can pick up a nice pair of them for about 5 bucks on Amazon.
Now, imagine someday being able to go to Amazon and buy a similarly cheap pair of “augmented reality glasses.” We’re probably about 20 years away from that day, but it will happen. The first handheld cellphone cost $3,995. Today, you can get one that fits in your pocket for $7.
Many of us (myself included) are working on the development of virtual worlds, both the underlying technology as well as figuring out innovative ways to use them. I think the trick for all of us working with virtual worlds right now is to not only focus on building out the technology, but to also carefully think through how they might be integrated into our daily lives. We still have many lessons to learn on how we can best use them to improve the world and augment our ability to deeply connect with other people.
The lessons we learn today will shape tomorrow. So we must dream wisely.
What have you learned in your work with virtual worlds? What are your dreams of the future?