There is only one reality (that I know of) and we enhance it anyway we can.
So what could the future hold in this Augmented, Virtual or Mixed Reality industry?
If you have ever watched Star Trek and the introduction of the Borg, now you can start to panic. Where does it all end I hear you cry, well that’s an interesting thought. Will future generations end up augmented to the hilt? Of course they will.
With the constant development of faster computers and miniaturization you can see where we are heading. We embrace and wear digitally enhanced technology.
- Smart Watches that contain biometric sensors.
- Headsets that contain advanced optics
- GPS trackers the size of a pea
- Tracking bands that convert your real-world limb position into digital data
- Hearing aids
- Smart glasses
Let’s take hearing for example. Currently we have miniaturized hearing amplifiers that go in the ear and simulate or enhance real-world sound. As I said before, the AR world is booming with investment and businesses are dumping billions of cash into the research. Just think what Augmented Hearing could do if it had a computer and software to process sound.
Hearing sensors coupled with a fast computer could for example do the following:
- Live language translation
- Frequency analysis. Lie detectors, stress detectors. Danger detectors!
- Super hearing, clarity and hearing distance can be filtered and enhanced.
- Infrasound or ultrasound detection. Sound outside human capacity for example, detect seismic activity for earthquakes before you feel it.
- Directed hearing or parabolic for highly focussed hearing, filter out unwanted sounds.
- Sound output, send out sound waves and convert it to visual data when it reflects off something. Bat vision!
Currently the software industry is trying to improve 3D sound. Traditionally sound generation is kind of positional (surround sound) but also attached to a sphere around the user. If you want to make a sound seem closer just make it louder but it is still attached to that invisible sphere, it isn’t immersive and our brain knows it. Three dimensional sound on the other hand will make it so that sounds really do appear closer, imagine standing in a dark room, you can hear a tap dripping in the corner, you can not see it but you look that direction anyway then suddenly somebody whispers behind your right ear. You would freak out because the sound came from right next to your ear. Your instincts scream at you to move away, spin around and look, duck etc. Sound is more important in VR than other mediums because with a headset on, things happen around us in 360 degrees. Have you ever got a friend to put a HMD on and they keep still, facing mostly forwards? It is a design consideration. In VR the action can be all around you. You need to make the user look around, look up, look over their shoulder and the natural queues to make this happen are sound. This will immerse your viewer. It will make them feel they are inside a 3D space regardless if the main action is forwards.
Augmented Smell / Taste
Humans can detect around 10,000 scents while dogs can detect 3 or 4 times as many. So rather than trying to detect all scents we could create devices to detect certain smells or chemical vapors.
So, getting crazy, we waft an item in front of our digital smell detector device, it does a chemical analysis and once it has found a pattern it can then perform other computed tasks, for example showing that exact scent as a visual. We now have a real-time smell tracker which you can see visually as colour in 3D space, you can run but you can not hide! We already have household gadgets that can detect invisible carbon monoxide so this isn’t as farfetched as it sounds. It just needs R&D. Security services could detect if a suspect has taken drugs or alcohol simply by standing near them. Bombs and dangerous scents could be detected. Things beyond human senses.
So where does it all end?
It doesn’t. Humans and Technology are tied together through the need to advance. Will digital function replace biological function? It already has and you have been a part of it. Take a current smartphone for instance, it converts your voice into digital 1’s and 0’s, sends it over vast distances and then reconstructs it. Voice Teleportation!, well, kind of, what the other person hears is not your real voice but a re-creation of your voice using computer software.