If I had the choice, I´d love to live in a world full of fantasy and magic – you know, with all kinds of exploration and cool visual elements. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a Mana Tree or something else that helps us using magic. But there is an alternative way, a way made possible by our modern reality. Or near future reality, to be more precise. It´s advanced technology that has the potential of creating a world full of seemingly magical elements.
I wanted to talk about this topic for a long time, since it is something that could change our world on a fundamental basis. Originally, I planned to use the anime “Dennou Coil” as a sole example for what I´m going to talk about, but I´ll gladly admit that I underestimated fellow tech-fans. It´s because of those people and their commitment to their joy of exploring new technical advancements that I can provide you this article today. From here on, I´d like to simply present you three actually under-development examples of projects that could bring us closer to a world of fantasy, using technology instead of mana.
The main feature of the anime “Dennou Coil” was that the characters in that fictional reality all are wearing glasses. Special data glasses, that are made of a transparence material, but let you see virtual content that is integrated into your surrounding real world seamlessly. It isn´t explained in detail of how it worked in that anime-series; one could imagine that the glasses work in combination with very precise GPS-technology and miniature camera-tracking devices. That way, the glasses allow the characters to see virtual pet dogs running in front of them as if they existed in reality. All that while the real environment is also integrated into the digital world, meaning that your virtual pet dog won´t be able to run right through a real tree or wall. Now imagine that instead of integrating a virtual pet dog we´re integrating a giant dragon and you finally get a grasp of what I meant when I was talking about making magic real.
The first of the three real “existing” examples (set in quotation marks because they´re either just concepts, yet, or rather far off from being available for mass usage) that I´d like to show you comes from some Israeli comedy TV-show. It isn´t a realized concept and the video is “fake”, to say so, but it shows off a really great concept. Instead of sleek glasses like those from the above mentioned anime-show, here you have to wear a rather big apparatus, consisting of a camera and visor. The camera captures the environment, while the visor integrates virtual content accordingly to the camera´s input data. As can be seen in the following video, that allows for shooter-games to take place in reality. Poor paintball-manufacturer would probably lose their jobs – but it´d be awesome nonetheless. See for yourself:
The next example is something that is actually worked on for mass market usage – and, according to the leader of Oblong Industries, being used in companies already. That company´s leader is John Underkoffler, who created the concept of the popular Minority Report´s computer system for Steven Spielberg´s movie. He founded Oblong Industries and then attempted to make the fictional idea reality – and succeeded. The project´s name is g-speak and works exactly like you would imagine it, if you´ve seen the Tom Cruise-starring movie. The technology used for g-speak goes beyond mouse and keybord and let´s the user interact by just their fingers´ movements. Videos can show this better than words, so just click the next link and scroll down a bit to find two videos, showcasing the g-speak-technology. Maybe he´s a bit overly confidend, but Underkoffler said he thinks the average PC-user might be able to get this technology in about five years. It´d be great if true, but it is already great to see someone working on this stuff at all.
I guess you think how anything could top the above stuff. But here comes Pranav Mistry, a genius guy from India, and his project SixthSense. Again, just watch the video below to see exactly what it is, though only a few words: The SixthSense-technology consists of a mobile camera-and-projector-device that you wear somewhere on the front of your body. Meanwhile, the tips of your pointy- and middle fingers will have to be marked by the use of color. Pattie Maes, who works together with Mistry at the MIT Media Lab, said that you could just color your fingernails and it´d work. What SixthSense does, is that it recognices typical gestures of your hands and inputs data accordingly. The most impressive scene from the demo is when Mistry does the usual photo-taking gesture, just the gesture without a camera in his hand, and the picture IS taken. Now, that is only part of what makes this technology so groundbreaking: With help of the projector ANY surface becomes your operating area. You can browse the photo you have just taken moments ago, or you could write or do whatever you want. The final, and most important, part of SixthSense, though, is its real-time connectivity to information. You go to the super market, grab a box of eggs, and on the surface of the egg box, it´d show you if the eggs are from an ecological friendly producer. And you could click onto the information on that surface to gain further information. This really makes it a connection of the real and the virtual world. And now watch the video to see even more fascinating stuff. Unfortunately, Pattie Maes is more realistic about future release dates for this technology, and it might take ten years or more for SixthSense to arrive on the mass market. On the plus side, Pranav Mistry said how this technology wouldn´t be more expensive than your typical cell phone and would be easy to mass manufacture.
So this is the technology to watch out for. Who knows, maybe it´ll be videogames that will help one of these technologies to reach the mass market. We already have the Wii´s gesture controls, that have been improved upon by MotionPlus just last year, and Microsoft is even closer to the above concepts with its upcoming project Natal. We cannot know for sure, but however way, knowing that technology like the above IS in the works makes me incredibly happy – and excited.