Internet Inside: Thoughts on the Future of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Humanity
I just finished reading a tor.com article by Leah Schnelbach titled "Ranking the Cyber Cinema of the 1990's!" and I completely loved it. Not only did it take me back, but it reminded me of a lot of the movies I grew up on that have contributed to my views on the Internet, sci-fi, and the cyber-culture that we're living in now. Ms. Schnelbach breaks down the films into a summary and evaluation of just how cyberpunk they are and their abilities to predict the world we're living in now, and it's definitely worth your time.
It's also a timely piece, considering we seem to be standing on the precipice of a new age.
With the Occulus Rift now available, and other companies such as SONY putting out VR products soon, it seems we've finally arrived at the future predicted by the 1980's and '90's, where we'll soon be living in digital space. Just how extensive the virtual world will become will depend on a few things, but if we include augmented reality in our definition (think Google Glass), then I see it being even more prevalent than smartphones.
|Photo By Leonard Low from Australia (Concept for augmented reality mobile phone) |
[CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Think about how addictive instant access to information and social media are. How many of us haven't heard of Facebook, or Wikipedia? Now imagine that being integrated into your world in an even more intimate way than our smartphones are capable of now. Imagine looking at something in front of you and receiving its Wikipedia page on the side of your vision, or saying "cake recipe #1" and having it scroll down the left side, or better yet, saying "call Ellie" and having a window open before you with the face of your loved one. All of this is right around the corner and in development now.
Don't like wearing glasses? No problem, developers are working on AR (Augmented Reality) contact lenses, and I don't doubt that in 10-20 years we'll have lens implants that will allow us to swap out our "crappy" biological lenses for better-than-natural vision that will include AR as a standard upgrade.
It seems the 'net is destined to become a part of us, more so than it already is. There's no doubt that it's going to be pretty cool, at least in some respects, but I also have to wonder about what we will become as we plunge into this new digitally-enhanced world. The Internet has, in many ways, magnified all that we are—the good as well as the bad. We use it to share ideas, reconnect with old friends, and develop cool new technologies, but we also use it to abuse and tear each other down. This is not new, of course, we've always done this, but watching people on the internet is a bit like watching humanity on steroids and speed standing in front of a mirror. What will we become when the 'net is literally inside us 24/7? No one can say for sure, but I bet it's going to be both horrifying and awesome at the same time.
As a lover of technology and a futurist, I say bring it on.