The Future of Immersive Experiences
We live in an age of accelerating disruptive technologies, where the blistering pace of innovation drives change every instant. A dizzying array of technological breakthroughs in a gamut of areas that all culminate in truly enriching our lives, some overtly and some in the background. One area that has truly seen disruption over the years is the Human Computer Interaction (HCI) that has truly emerged as a central area of focus in delivering rich experiences to us.
A truly personalized immersive experience is not about engaging people in a single channel like web, mobile, voice or AR/VR. While all these are rich streams of interaction by themselves, the future of immersive experience will rely on delivering multiple streams simultaneously, all parts of a whole. This would closely mimic a real life situation where you could be listening to music, reading a book, researching prices or reviews of a product and planning your vacation at the same time. At this point, your location is immaterial, whether it is home, a brick and mortar store, a mall, a car or your workplace. All that remains is how we can craft the perfect personalized immersive experience for you.
In fact, the world we see in future might be even richer than what we see with our naked eyes, augmenting the beauty of nature with rich digital sensory inputs. Imagine waking up to the view of the lions of Africa or the waves of the Pacific Ocean within your living room. Children could explore the surface of mars from the comfort of their rooms. Every wall becomes a portal into the world beyond. There are many open source projects that rely on crowdsourcing image fragments and stitching together a virtual 3D map of the world (e.g.: https://www.mapillary.com/). NVidia and microsoft among other companies have done pioneering work in holo technology, Nvidia for instance creating a full holodeck, not very dissimilar to the one we have seen in Star Trek. There are many virtual worlds with incredibly detailed visualization. It isn’t a stretch to extrapolate this to every inch of the world, the mountains and the oceans, the buildings and the parks of the world. We are moving towards a world which is a seamless blend of physical and virtual truly creating a new dimension of experiences far superior to anything we see today. Layer in personalization and the same blended experience renders differently for various people in various ways or for the same user in different ways depending on their state of mind.
The mode of our interactions could change from visual and sound cues to directly being able to read and transmit thoughts and communicate with each other. Some of this is already possible with various research projects in MIT, which allows for being able to interpret brain waves, this could facilitate interaction between two brains. With Holo and tactile technology, we could view the 3 dimensional model of any item you want to buy right in your home, and being able to feel it and turn it around print out the item right in our home or perhaps get it delivered instantaneously from a hyperlocal location using a drone. Throughout all these activities, there is probably an intelligent assistant learning your likes and dislikes, predicting in advance what you might need, making subtle suggestions on what looks good on you for the evening dinner, that it is time for a break or you might need to buy a bottle of wine for the weekend. Such rich context of our likes, dislikes, preferences and habits can be further bolstered by having a rich data delivered by IOT devices. To deliver this kind of an experience, we will need quantum computing that can process immense data simultaneously. Not to underestimate technologies such as LIFI which will also enable delivery of these immensely huge data streams at speeds much higher than what we see currently. Could there be a situation where a hierarchy of ML workers feed into deep learning that drives Artificial General Intelligence and perhaps one day even attain metacognition?
From immersive experiences to truly life changing ones, robotics and mechatronics enables robots and exoskeletons to enable differently-abled people experience those things that normal humans take for granted. How much of this technology is going to be integrated directly into the human body to augment it would be another question. Wearables today might consist of augmented glasses or prosthetics. In future, advances in nanotechnology and body augmentation technologies will enable these improvements to be directly embedded into the human body improving us and making us experience better things.
These and more are things we can do already or will do in the future given the rate of change and maturity of the technology. Our future is going to be a rich interactive mesh that stems from the confluence of intelligent AI assistants, augmented and virtual worlds, immersive experiences, instant delivery using 3D printing or near real-time using drones, holo technology, body augmentation and nanotechnology driven by the immense power of quantum computing creating a composite world that contains equal parts and real and virtual worlds. AI and Blockchain will exist as foundation layers across the entire digital ecosystem. Would this harken the start of delivering composite experiences in an experience-as-a-service model? The ability to deliver levels and types of immersive experience on an ad-hoc basis with paid models isn’t as farfetched at all. Ultimately the biggest drug of them all is the most exhilarating experience.
As exciting as it sounds, we need to realize the implications to user privacy and security. More and more of our digital presence is being captured (as recent events about Facebook come to light), this will only intensify and we will need to capture more than ever to deliver that intensive immersive experience. Blockchain technology is truly revolutionary and will act as a gatekeeper to selectively allow for access to bits and pieces of your digital self while keeping a strict audit trail for accesses. In addition, AI will actively measure, identify, and deflect threats. This is necessary as we see an increase in attacks aimed against your digital identity and we rely on the engine to learn and adapt to the threats and thwart them. In future, the war to protect our identity could very well be AI vs AI.
Exciting things await us as we truly scale the pinnacle of technological innovations. With every victory comes a different challenge, however, we need to place trust in the human race to be able to surmount these challenges through sheer resiliency. I for one envision a very exciting future. What does the future look like to you?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aditya Pandurangan considers himself a digital philosopher. As a corporate leader in a cutting edge digital transformational agency, he sees first hand every day how technology is leveraged to fundamentally transform lives.
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