Somewhere between Meatspace and Cyberspace

by Zedagain on July 4, 2010

Until now, humanity has only had to deal with two “levels” of reality. The first level of reality is the physical one, it is where humanity’s five senses interact and interpret the world. The second “level” of reality is harder to define but constitutes some concepts like “love”, “hate”, religion and spirituality. The first level has been referred to as “life”, meatspace and IRL(short for In Real Life). The second level is as hard to name as to define, but it is the level where the soul would reside and where love happens at first sight.

Technology is already offering one new level of reality with another in development! Augmented reality is a new form of “enhanced” reality. The easiest way to demonstrate augmented reality is to talk about the way a sport event is displayed on the screen of a television. The actual game is displayed and additional information is provided visually across the background. Taken to the extreme, imagine a pair of eyeglasses that were tiny televisions. You are walking down the street and look over at the chinese food restaurant, the bland physical exterior is transformed by your eyeglasses! A fantastic dragon curls over the building, it’s knowing eyes projecting images of the fine cuisine served inside. You don’t feel like chinese, but you add an indicator mark to the city map that hovers at 5% transparency over your field of vision. A person to person video call comes in so you replace your map transparency with the image of your mom who notices your current status is set to “hungry”. The world has so much information, augmented reality is one way of letting that information flow over to the Real World.

Augmented reality sounds very futuristic but is not even a recent technology. Pilots in the 1950s had very effective flight data available in their field of view onboard commercial air flights. Move forward to the 1970s and the military was providing combat pilots HUD(heads up displays) on the inside of their helmet. Fast forward to the gritty 2Ks and the military has gone beyond, now they have guns with camera eyes, that allow the shooter to point the gun around a corner and see a sneak peek on top of their visual field with an in helmet display.

Anywhere an operator will benefit from an additional information stream, augmented reality is a solid fit. The quickest way to tap into augmented reality is on your mobile phone. There are augmented reality note taking apps for most smart phones. Some allow you to share your “geo-synced” comments with your friends and some record your movements and observations.

Augmented reality is really only a stepping stone to artificial reality. Artificial or virtual reality is the opposite of augmented reality. Artificial reality is a data world that has points of ingress to allow your perceptions to flow into the data stream. Artificial reality is still not viable as an end user technology. At minimum it will require surgery and new terms to describe new forms of perception.

The most exciting thing about having “levels” of reality is the growth that will come with it. Humans share “meatspace” with the animals, it is the default interface to the world. Spiritual and religious beliefs layer the world with art, emotion and beauty and challenge us to strive for more. Augmented reality allows us to record and share our perceptions in a unique contextual way.

If meatspace lets us touch, then our soulspace allows us to feel. Augmented reality lets us record and share our perceptions. I wonder how virtual reality will change how we interface our perceptions to reality.

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