Big things on the horizon

These last few weeks, I’ve felt a feeling of foreboding. Like there were big things looming on the horizon. Big things that would change the world as we know it.

These big things are still far off, and even bigger things maybe creeping up behind them, out of our view.

But added together, they might result in dramatic transformations in how we work, play, and learn.

Oculus Rift

This is the one getting all the publicity right now, because of the Kickstarter and all the videos coming out showing people playing with the developer kits.

The Kickstarter, in particular, brought in almost $2.5 million — ten times the $250,000 the creators were originally asking for.

And the videos are fantastic. Like the one below with the grandmother trying Oculus Rift for the first time.

But I’m also impressed by the combination of the Oculus Rift with other devices.

Like the video below, which combines Oculus Rift with hand-tracking.

Or this video, which combines the Oculus Rift with an omni-directional treadmill from Virtuix:

I want that treadmill. So bad. It’s supposed to have its own Kickstarter in May. I’m keeping an eye out.

Fast connections

Google has jump-started things with their Google Fiber rollouts in Kansas City, Austin, and Provo, Utah. But the telecom and cable companies are waking up.

AT&T has also said it plans to build a gigabit fiber network in Austin. Even smaller companies, like Wicked Broadband in Lawrence, Kansas, CenturyLink in Omaha and Vermont Telephone Co., are also getting into the game.

A gigabit is a thousand times more than a megabit. So, my current connection is from Charter Communications, and I pay extra for higher speeds. According to SpeedTest, I’m getting around 35 megabits of download speed, and just a little bit more than 4 megabits of upload speed.

So Google Fiber’s one-gigabit-both-ways connection is around 30 times faster for downloads, and 250 times faster for uploads.

More realistic virtual environments

Several companies are working on making virtual environments more realistic. And we’re getting close. After all, the iPhone screen’s resolution is already at the limits of the human eye’s ability to distinguish detail. Putting that kind of high-resolution screen into a device like the Oculus Rift would create very realistic environments, if backed by the right rendering engine.

Such as the Unlimited Detail engine from Euclideon, seen in the video below.

Or the Unigine Engine, from Unigine Corp.:

Even Second Life founder Philip Rosedale is in the race, with his new High Fidelity startup.

What it means

Put it all together, and we’ve got  the makings of a hyper-realistic, immersive virtual experience.

My big worry is that the new platforms will be proprietary and extremely expensive. And will result in a metaverse composed of giant content providers, instead of something like the World Wide Web, where anyone can put up a website. Or the hypergrid, where anyone can set up OpenSim and create a virtual world.


Maria Korolov