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Future of Virtual Reality?

  1. Jul 12, 2011 #1
    What does the future of virtual reality look like? There are a lot of hype out there for its future. What do you guys think?

    You may also share any articles, videos, etc..
     
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  3. Jul 12, 2011 #2

    Ryan_m_b

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    I'm not so sure about virtual reality for a while (the technology is clearly improving but it will be a while yet). However augmented reality is going to be huge in the near future. I've been following some of the development over recent years and just a couple of weeks ago saw some software that blew my mind. A company called string have got an AR demo app that allows you to see examples of all sorts of cool images. The best in my opinion is a hole that appears when you point the iphone/ipad at the marker through which a dragon flies out. The most stunning thing is as you move the device around the image in the background changes through the hole. A more practical example is a shoe that you can customise colours, patterns etc.

    The software is getting better and better. What it really needs to break through the gimmick/novelty barrier and into everyday life is for it to be integrated into stylish and practical eye wear. It's all very well holding up your phone to see augmented reality overlays but it's not entirely practical, if people just wore specs which had discrete cameras on the outside and transparent screens for glass the market for AR is huge. Want to know where to go? Tap a destination into your phone and your glasses will throw up an arrow, coloured line or anything you want to follow. Look at a restaurant, reviews pop up over the top. Forget someones name, a summary of their facebook profile hovers next to them.

    The opportunities are enormous (not to mention the effect it could have on the gaming market). It just needs a bit of development of the software and a big development in the hardware.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2011
  4. Jul 12, 2011 #3

    sophiecentaur

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    I have a serious worry that people confuse reality with simulated reality. The images presented by broadcasters and film makers are so compelling that your average non-Scientist just can't distinguish between fact and fiction.
    It's no wonder kids aren't so amazed about 'space exploits' when they take for granted the existence of Warp Drive and inter stellar travel; they've seen it all in films and it's far easier to accept than hard, nitty-gritty Science.
    Things can only get worse.
     
  5. Jul 12, 2011 #4

    Ryan_m_b

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    Tell me about it, I had a conversation with two friends who I consider very intelligent about the last shuttle mission. One of them asked if it was going back to Venus, the other thought that was a good question. I despair.
     
  6. Jul 12, 2011 #5

    sophiecentaur

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    And your two friends could well have been Politicians, making momentous decisions about where our money should be spent and how to deal with the energy crisis!
     
  7. Jul 12, 2011 #6
    I take the 'Matrix' model of the future very seriously, in this respect:

    If the seat of one's consciousness can be transferred from brain to cpu/memory seamlessly (this is crucial), people will take that option if/when it becomes available.

    There are 2 ways to do this: internal replacement (Kurzweil) and external transfer. The former will be rather expensive and probably a long way off.

    It's established by anthropologists that the seat of consciousness (whereabouts you actually sense your conscious, self-recognizing self is, is not fixed between the ears, or behind the eyes. Some have it the chest, as I recall, but that's unusual.

    Transfer to servers will almost certainly involve some kind of s-f head gizmo that can

    1. control a computer directly from the brain, and
    2. bring sensory feedback from the machine directly to the relevant cortices (auditory, visual, etc.)

    This established, the seat of consciousness will be free to move seamlessly to and from the meat between the ears and the cpu/memory. It will be necessary first to establish machine sensory inputs (via video, microphone, olfactory, tactile sensors), and outputs (manipulators) available to this seat of consciousness, otherwise it will refuse to move (we like to have familiar surroundings). If the sensory/motor factors are superior to those of the human body, it will move readily.

    This accomplished, the attraction of having the potential for an unlimited lifetime will be certainly irresistible. Once transferred, civilization will probably eventually settle for an entirely internalized reality: a virtual Matrix-like existence. What's the point of an external reality if an internal one will provide a much richer and flexible experience (and see following paragraph)? This is, in fact what we do when we read a good novel, then switch to T.V., and then surf the internet.

    The downside is that this option will probably be made available only to a select few million, chosen, elite. For security the integrity (permanence) of the thing will be much better, if we leave Earth altogether for a safe, but boring environment, such as deep below the crust of a geologically inactive outer planet(oid), such as Pluto.

    The downside of this (potential) personal near-immortality is that people will stop doing science. They won't care about the properties of real matter, space and time, except for a few thousand personalities that will monitor the solar system for existential threats, and make decisions about repair and renovation, relocation and the like.

    Then again, most people don't care about science/reality anyway. As stated above, a lot of time is spent in a fantasy world.
     
  8. Jul 12, 2011 #7

    sophiecentaur

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    I think this is a bit over simplistic but you have some points which I could go along with. I don't subscribe to a "seat of consciousness", as such but I would say that in a social organism, a big chunk of the consciousness is already, effectively, external to us. This is not only true in our inter personal affairs but in the way we use machines (in particular, computers) as a significant part of our though processes. The existence of some of our ideas in the form of writing and computer programs is more than just data transfer: it is a group consciousness (PF, for instance). Once we can stop being obsessed with 'self' - as if that is the ultimate - and get on with our part in the human race, we can forget about misguided and selfish ideas of immortality of the self and realise that we can be immortal by thinking to the future of our offspring.

    It is unthinkable that trillions of humans could aim at being immortal. Talk of immortality, however it may be achieved, is, necessarily based on a very exclusive idea of our own personal importance. Who would be judged to be worthy of being at the front of the queue? You, me, Rupert Murdoch???

    This could be going along the lines of the 'starships' debate.
     
  9. Jul 12, 2011 #8
    It's not simplistic, but rather a rough sketch. Any speculation about the future is bound to have unexpected changes.

    What is solid though is in fact the notion of a personal self that most definitely does not want to cease. That self is the waking consciousness, aware of itself and (normally) its surroundings. When asked about 'where' this consciousness 'is', most people will give an answer that it's somewhere in the head, or more indirectly, they could confidently affirm where it most definitely is not: the toes, elbows, Aunt Martha's china teapot. At the moment, mine is located somewhere behind the eyes, probably because I'm reading (and typing) and using the visual cortex intensely.

    If I shut my eyes and just listen for a few minutes, it would probably locate somewhere between my ears. That's where my being finds itself located.

    This 'self', however philosophically we want to define its manners, values, morals, selfishnesses, ethics, definitely would like to survive. Somewhere. This is why they warned us about the correct way to save a drowning person: we have a way of discarding all our speculations and values when there's a floating object nearby we can climb on top of.
     
  10. Jul 12, 2011 #9
    In the future, people from all over the world will be able to discuss physics with each other without even having to be in the same physical place! They'll interact in "online discussion forums" and will feel that they know each other, even though they've never met. Individuals will be known by their "handles," which are nothing more than electronic labels that interact with each other in cyberspace.

    Oh if only there were some way to do that now ...
     
  11. Jul 12, 2011 #10

    The problem I see about that is the headaches that a computer screen can induce. I wonder if there is a way around that because it would be needed if your going to have a screen on your glasses.
     
  12. Jul 12, 2011 #11
    Some people would stick around for the pursuit of science. I don't see why you couldn't do that in a whole matrix-type virtual reality.

    The problem is how are we going to transfer the mind to a computer? I mean our brain is immensely complex and still relatively unknown to us. The question of consciousness is one of the biggest questions of our time.

    While its very exciting keep in note: we still have no idea how to tap in dreams or memories. We can read the brain activity as electrical signals but have no interpretation of what they mean. Neither do I believe that we can using that approach.

    Even though I am a big optimist, the problem of transferring the brain into a computer may very well be impossible.
     
  13. Jul 12, 2011 #12

    sophiecentaur

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    Dream on. How could that ever happen?
     
  14. Jul 12, 2011 #13
    The hype about virtual reality is just that, hype. Virtual reality headsets tend to make people dizzy which is why they never caught on. People rely on their vision for balance and when it contradicts their inner ear it causes a conflict. That's where augmented reality has an advantage because it does not conflict with your inner ear and sense of balance.

    Augmented reality glasses could become the ultimate rose colored glasses through which to view the world. Someone living in a slum could put on a pair and it would automatically filter out all the trash on the ground, the graffiti on the walls, and even make the people and buildings around them look better. They could fill their apartment with expensive works of art and have long discussions with Albert Einstein if they so desired. However, that level of sophistication is in the distant future.

    In the immediate future augmented reality glasses can perform such mundane tasks as translating street signs into other languages and allow six foot tall imaginary rabbits named Harvey to follow us around and spout the occasional witty comment.
     
  15. Jul 13, 2011 #14

    Ryan_m_b

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    This reminded me of the novel "[URL [Broken] Game[/URL]. It was written in 1985 but set in the future, everybody in it used to talk over "the net" on "forums". What silly ideas these sci-fi authors used to have...

    This is a good point. Headaches from screens are due to the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flicker_(screen)" [Broken] may be better to use than screens if they can be made to work in a similar way.
     
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  16. Jul 13, 2011 #15

    sophiecentaur

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    I thought that the present view of consciousness was that it resides nowhere in particular but is the very top layer of a load of hardware, sensory input, memory and brain processing. Merely 'downloading' some static data onto a computer, of whatever sort, wouldn't constitute a duplicate of one's self. it could, possibly generate something with sentience and memory - even its own consciousness butt how would that be 'you'? You would need to reconstruct the whole of your body (maybe an emulation) and the totality of its environment plus download all the stuff that the 'enthusiasts' seem to think would be enough.
    Then, of course, the question arises about multiple copies. Just how would all the clones deal with that? Imho, it's a nonsense, once you think it through completely, - a bit like Cryogenics.
     
  17. Jul 13, 2011 #16

    Ryan_m_b

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    The biggest problem is that this is all just speculation. Without http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_problem_of_consciousness" [Broken] the only way we are going to be able to digitally simulate a human is to simulate the entire body and environment as well, possibly at a molecular level (this is assuming that the solution to the hard problem even allows for the possibility of modifying human consciousness to run without a human body).

    The human mind is not just software that can be ported to a new device running on similar principles, the brain is a messy and complex biological organ. As such it requires a whole host of biochemical interactions with the body to survive, it amuses and frustrates me when singularity/mind uploading/strong AI proponents hand wave away this problem with the naive assumption that all these interactions are just minor details that can be easily emulated. The fact is our knowledge of neuroscience is nowhere near the level where we can attempt to simulate a human brain, let alone do so without the body and let alone start emulating a human mind without a human brain.
     
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  18. Jul 13, 2011 #17
    About 20 years ago I visited a company in Japan that had a virtual reality setup on display. I put on the helmet with the goggles and the glove and the rest of the equipment. I found myself in someone's house. I was in the kitchen. I turned on the water faucet and out came water. I got a glass, filled it, and drank. Not bad. I opened the fridge and there was a great selection. I took a few pieces of sushi and washed it down with some sake from the warmer. Then I went to the living room. There was a wall safe. I tried a few combinations more out of curiosity than hope. But the third one opened the safe and I helped myself to a couple of bundles of !0,000 Yen notes. From there I went into the bedroom. There was a gorgeous woman lying on the bed and inviting me to join her. We made passionate love and then she told me to leave quickly as her husband would be coming home soon. I went back through the living room and was heading for the back door when the husband barged in. He was a yakuza and screaming in a bloody rage. He pulled out a knife long enough to slice four loaves of bread with a single swipe (a four-loaf cleaver) and was about to slice me to ribbons when they took the helmet off and it was the next person's turn. I don't think there's any future in it. It's OK while you're doing it, but 1 hour later you want more.
     
  19. Jul 13, 2011 #18

    sophiecentaur

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    I agree totally. In fact anyone who thinks along the lines of 'downloading' just hasn't thought, read or heard much about the serious question of consciousness.
    My view is that there is a fundamental limit to just how much a system (i.e. humans) can examine and characterise itself, in particular, its own consciousness. It's a bit like having to draw a map of a scene that must contain an image the map itself - and that image must contain an image .... and so on.
    Who analyses the analyst?
    @ryan Are you seriously question the depth of thought of some of our contributors? Shame.

    I have been beside my self with worry over this (clearly there must have been two uploads of my brain, haha).
     
  20. Jul 13, 2011 #19

    Ryan_m_b

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    Exactly. Proponents seem to think that consciousness is a Flash game run on a computer and that for uploading all we have to do is build a USB to transfer it.

    I agree in part, It wouldn't be possible for me to examine my own consciousness however we can compartmentalise. If a good understanding of how consciousness arises was developed then the understanding could be shared out amongst specialist who each know a small part.

    Oh no of course not, no one would ever post on PF with such craziness...
     
  21. Jul 14, 2011 #20
    That's almost exactly what I would answer! Another thought is that, although one cannot examine his own consciousness, that doesn't preclude him from the examining the alleged consciousness of other people and extrapolate that if theirs works in a certain way, then his also most probably works the same. Or he could let other people examine his/her consciousness and then show him/her, much like the way a neurosurgeon can perform a surgery upon anyone but not himself.

    I'm not quite sure of the above arguments though so please correct me if wrong!(I'm neither a philosopher, nor a neuroscientist or whatever other discipline is about these things) But they seem viable and only require some basic philosophical underpinnings like that there are other minds and that they are most likely like my mind.

    As for virtual reality and its future, I believe it is too early to speculate since the simulation of basic physics in a virtual world is a very difficult computational problem and to create real-like worlds may turn out to be computationally infeasible. But augmented reality is the way to go in the near future. As computers get smaller and cheaper, they become ubiquitous. You can have computers on your clothes, on your glasses and everywhere in your house to monitor and control the environment. For augmented reality, we need an advancement in human-computer interfaces and the energy consumption of computers and the interfaces. There are already many research groups addressing these problems.(for example, research on energy harvesting and wireless sensor networks) Michio Kaku is also a big supporter of this everytime I hear him talk about the future of technology. Try his speach: (he also talks about other technologies, as well as some things about possible alien civilizations... but I'm quite cautious about this last one!)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gto-_jeelW8"
     
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