The Virtual Reality I want.

There’s something of a silent war going on around us at this time, and it has been going on for quite a while. I know that I wrote “Virtual Reality” in the title, but that’s merely due to the fact that it’s the generally preferred term for all of those projects out there making headsets and goggles, but otherwise this post does cover my ideas about its brothers that go by the names “Mixed Reality” and “Augmented Reality.”

So, before we go on, let’s talk about how the brothers differ. Virtual Reality is where Oculus is the major player in the market, and has met fine success. The HTC Vive is another which may not have stirred as much excitement but so far, all things positive have been said about it. The idea of virtual reality, in terms your grandma could understand, is that you put on a headset and you find yourself in a different world altogether. You look around, and all you get to see is what the headset shows you, while you are completely distracted from what’s actually around you. Rather like the Nygmatech in Batman: Forever. You put it on, and the next thing you know, you are in a forest; or perhaps in the middle of the French Revolution?

Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality are basically two different terms for the same idea. Another term for them is Computer-mediated reality.  The idea is simple, with the aid of a computer, your perception of the world around you is altered. You see and interact with objects around you that aren’t there, namely holograms, but you see them in space floating around or sitting next to the other tangible objects around you. The major player here is Microsoft’s HoloLens.

So here’s the thing. I know that the way I started this post suggested that they are all competing against one another, and I think that in truth, it somewhat is so, but then again, I see no reason for them to. Let’s forget the variety of goggles in the market and focus on the “realities.” We need both.

Think of these goggles or headsets as display devices, just like your monitor and just like your projector. Now you want to play a video game, or watch a movie. You don’t need any distractions in the form of open browser windows or titlebars and borders, so you go full-screen. Well, that’s what we have VR for. Total immersion. Ideal for gaming and watching movies and videos. As a bonus, you can imagine a history class where the students and teachers are walking through the french-revolution.

But wait, what if you want to do some productive stuff, while multitasking effectively. Maybe you want to read and shoot a couple of emails, write a blog-post, and while doing all of that, you are also chatting with a friend on facebook. Surely as a display device, your headset must allow that? Why yes! You could have the whole thing appear in front of you in thin air obviously… like a rectangle of everything you see on a computer screen, unsupported by any computer monitor and un-projected by any projector on any wall.. and you can resize and move it around to your heart’s desire.. but wait, that’s dumb. Why have a stupid floating screen when you can have more. Imagine a number of such floating screens. Good. Every single one of those screens is a separate window. Which means that I could have an email client floating around my left hand, while there’s a browser window right in front of me in which I’m typing away. Wait, I’m carrying around a keyboard? Na. It’s a holographic keyboard. 

See what this means? Total privacy. You can do your stuff right in front of everyone while no one can even see the screen you are working on. I do realize that this also means that you’d look like an ass in front of everyone but we are choosing to overlook that for now. Although voice commands would be ideal when dealing with holograms and would definitely work well when you are iron-man and walking through an apartment alone, but when you have people around you, you might prefer to not use your voice to type due to privacy reasons, or because it makes you look like an ass?

But wait! What if you want to let someone see your screen? You come across a video on the internet, and although you could share it to him on social media, you just want to show it to him straight away without involving any form of digital communication. You don’t have a monitor he could look at, and you don’t want to take of your headset for him to wear, so what do you do? Why, set the privacy of the hologram from private to public! That way, your friend would be able to see that screen directly from his own headset, and he would see it exactly where you see it. In front of you. In the event that you don’t want a third person in the room to see the video, you could go with custom privacy settings and show it only to him or perhaps hide it specifically from one person.

Now you are bored. You decide to fire up a game. It starts in it’s own screen. But wait. What’s that button-whoa! Total-Immersion? That’s right folks. Who plays a game in windowed mode anyway? Go full-screen, you must, and on the super cool headset we are imagining, it means going oculus, going into virtual-reality.

Are we forgetting something? What about communication? Are there no added benefits of VR in communication? Well, haven’t you checked out the holoportation video yet? Cause that covers most possibilities and with something of a demonstration.

Other possibilities? Well? Holographic objects, including screens could be fixed to an offset around you, or they could be fixed to a specific spot in space. For example, I could have a video player on a wall in front of me that stays there regardless of whether or not I am in the room. Almost like a holographic TV. Furthermore, we could have holographic widgets and icons pinned to the fridge, rather like they showed in the original HoloLens video. And since we just introduced ourselves to holographic decorations and devices, let’s explore that too. You could even literally have a holographic laptop at your desk. This could actually be a way of skinning windows, and hey skins could be another thing too. See how it grows naturally? Furthermore, the headset doesn’t need to work with one device at a time.. it could be in sync with a number of devices, so all notifications from your phone come to the top right hand corner of.. hang on, not screen, no. There isn’t one.. Well, let’s just say callouts floating near your head; you could move them of course.

Since now we have considered synchronization with mobile devices, let’s combine it with the idea of holographic devices.. get it? Yes exactly. Your phone is connected to your headset, so technically you don’t need to touch it. Hell, you could even leave it at home if you are guaranteed to stay connected, or if it’s in your pocket, you needn’t take it out, you could however have a holographic phone in your hand? And speaking of headsets that double as phones, that reminds me of something..

How much of it is possible at this time?

All of it. It only really needs some careful planning and execution. It’s easier to imagine than it is to build of course. You get all sorts of loopholes and security flaws and you try to deal with them without making it any less cool. Let’s start from the start and consider the possibilities of the possibilities becoming possible.

  • Virtual Reality? Check.
  • Interactive holograms? Check.
  • Privacy controls? Check. This would obviously need careful planning. Could involve some form of networking between the different headsets and that would need to be independent from any networking between the devices they are connected to. If we are using HoloLens then it could perhaps be a “HoloLens Network?” Where all holographic objects alive are registered while they exist? This could also involve user accounts, but may not need to.
    We do have bluetooth, right? it works without any form of predefined network or user accounts. A similar thing with faster transfer speeds could be developed for this. Users could give their headsets usernames and that would allow for easy quick sharing.
  • Both VR and MR/AR in a single headset? Check. 
  • Holoportation? Check.
  • Holograms fixed to locations in space? Check. 
  • Holographic devices? They are just interactive holograms. Check. 
  • In Sync with a number of devices? Let’s talk about it.

I know I talked about these headsets working as plug-and-play display devices, so I guess the ideal configuration would be to have your primary desktop computer connected to the headset and to have all your mobile devices in sync with the computer. This of course means that the Sync would practically need to allow for remote control in order for you to actually use a holographic version of your phone that I was raving about. While for you to get notifications and make calls and send messages, you would need to have a decent syncing app that allows for this.

No really, how exactly does it connect to devices?

The HoloLens doesn’t need to connect to a computer because it is essentially a computer itself. This works, but for matters debatable, I can’t decide if it would always work well. For one, you would be limited to the limitations of the OS of the lens.

A connection-based approach may work as follows: You buy a headset and install it’s app on your computer. The headset itself stays connected at all times to it’s own special network, rather like your cellphone does to your service provider. With an internet connection, your phone connects to the headsets network and transfers information to it, also allowing for storage of configurations on the cloud, and the network transfers your information to your headset.
This of course means that it would be impossible to use such a headset without an internet connection on your computer, to get over this, there could be a WiFi based method for connectivity that you could use when you are indoors and this may not need you to connect to the internet as information would be transmitted directly between your computer and headset. Whether or not it should still allow for wired connectivity because there might be those who’d want it, is debatable.

Well, that’s about it. This, I believe is what computer-mediated reality could be like in the future, when headsets allowing for this sort of shit are dominant, and about as common as VGA monitors were in 2004.

 

Anas Ismail Khan

 

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