Holograms had their day in the sun, but it’s time for us to shift our focus. If we had years ago we’d already be chilling out on our patios reading this on our Wearable Holodecks, playing games that make Skyrim look like Pong, exploring nature through camera arrays like Wizard Eye, and enjoying the fact that our surgeons can see things no human could and are have their movements constantly stabilized...all while saving the planet by not wasting so much disposable trash.
That’d be better, right?
I’m not saying they’re completely useless. In fact at this point it’s probably best to clear up a point for the nitpicky. What we’re referring to here are ‘holograms’ as generally perceived by mainstream people. I’m not going to title the article ‘Really Big Walk-in Volumetric Displays’ (technically more accurate) and confuse everyone except a few geeks.
Those things, which we are now calling holograms again (Yes, I know, most of you already were. Trust me, this’ll save me a lot of hassle in the replies), they’ll always be fun toys and have a niche use for people who for some reason are avoiding cooler and far less wasteful and expensive techs...but that’s about it. In reality, at least.
This looks awesome, doesn’t it?
Hollywood is important because like it or not they’re largely in charge of the dreams of the future we pick up as kids. How many of us were inspired to be what we were in part because somebody we wanted to be like on the big or little screens? I know I was. I didn’t actually get to become a starship pilot or an interstellar bounty hunter, but that wasn’t for lack of trying. There’s just no jobs.
There’s a schism there because our entertainment conglomerates aren’t motivated to really be good stewards of what we’re inspired to create, they need to make money. But in this case that’s not the problem.
Instead, it’s primarily because the medium of choice for Hollywood during the formative years of those picking what to try to invent was a big, shared screen.
Holograms translate excellently there! You can have multiple people seeing the same 3-D things projected in space. It looks cool and it’s very easy to implement, right? It can even look like they can interact with them in ways that are quite literally scientifically impossible (we’ll get to that in a few and you’ll prove it for me!)
So how do you do that when multiple people have Augmented Reality and all have their own interfaces? How do you show when they choose to share what they’re seeing vs. when they’re working privately? You know how we humans are, we like that control. We’re really just talking about the same thing that’s already happened with cell phones, since their tiny screens are situationally private.
So it’s not so much Hollywood that’s to blame, but it’s very important we take the root causes into account to put things into perspective.
For those who haven’t seen it, here’s Microsoft’s Hololens.
We’re not talking Oculus Rift or anything, you don’t need to completely replicate the viewing experience, you just need to enhance it.
Of course, it’s a bit bulky, but there’s no real technological limits here that we haven’t already solved (again, unlike holograms) and we could easily have eyeglasses-comfortable devices in a few years.
This is the tipping point.
People have been growing up wearing glasses for generations. It doesn’t matter if you’re willing to wear glasses all day, it matters if the teenagers are.
On top of that, with a personal view it makes it possible to mesh data from different sources dynamically, creating such innate possibilities as...
- Avoiding an accident at night by getting supporting information from an IR camera and seeing those deer in infrared long before they decide to bolt across the road.
- A surgeon getting a HUD that warns her when she’s getting close to an artery in your leg that she couldn’t possibly see from where she is.
- While taking macro photos with a bunch of friends in Belize, you share a view of a particularly fascinating opilione while waiting for them to arrive with their cameras to help enhance your own view beyond what you can do with your solo rig.
- Even though you got the nosebleed seats to the NFC Championship game, you can still zoom in on the action and see little trails behind all the players showing where they’ve been.
- Instead of buying that completely useless big screen TV, you could afford pretty much every game you want to play for a year, your own personal ball pit, and the comfiest pajamas ever.
Can holograms take us there? No. No they can’t, can they?
What else can AR give us that Holograms can’t?
We humans are tactile creatures and our ability to touch a point in space with no other feedback is pretty embarrassing.
Pick a point in space a foot or so in front of you. Now try to touch it while moving your hand in a few different directions.
Now, find a slightly irregular surface and find a bump of some sort you can detect. Now try to touch that same exact spot several times by sliding your fingers along that surface.
Which one did you suck at and which one were you awesome at?
That’s the other reason why the whole ‘projecting images into space and they trying to touch them’ is a really, really bad idea. It’s not their fault, it’s not the technology. It’s US.
They are poorly suited for our use in real life. We need something designed who we are.
The next step is touch, resistance, even motion. Again, all low-tech things that we just need to consolidate and miniaturize...but that’s a whole other article.
These are all real, achievable goals. We don’t need to invent anything new, we just need some hard work. We could have them in years. We could have had them already!
What do you want more...a floating interface where the computer’s spending most of it’s time trying to figure out what your spastic hands are doing, or to really see the world change around you?
I say we refine our dreams and make them better rather than get caught up in the old ones. It’s a better future that way.
About your host (he’s mostly harmless.)