Virtual Reality and the Convergence of Interfaces
We are acquainted with a world of interfaces. Even before IT, mechanical devices already had interfaces. Even a kitchen sink can be seen as an interface to use the piping system. Interfaces are our access to complex systems, a simple set of tools to make use of something very complex. To visualize it, to interact with it.
There are many ways to interpret and look at interfaces, even a pair of glasses can be thought as interface to see better the world around us. The first interface our brain faces are our own senses. Our eyes are the interface between our brain and the images we see. Our ears the interface through which we understand language and decode sounds. Our nose as the interface to our perception of smells. For those three senses we create a one way channel between our brain and the world around us. In fact the ears, nose and eyes are one way interfaces to our world, in the sense that they collect data from our world and send it as signals to our brains. But they don’t send data to the world. We then have two senses which I would like to define as two-way channels senses. Our hands are the interface through which we manipulate objects, on one way we feel what we touch and receive data from the real world. On the other hand we send data to the real world, when we act with our hands on something, move an object, manipulate any material. Our mouth is also a double channel interface, because through it we feel taste, but we also use it to emit sounds and speak. In other words, input data in our environment, through the sounds that we speak through our mouth.
What may seems an obvious introduction, is really a way to bring your attention to the fact that our ultimate interfaces are our senses. Before mechanical interfaces, before IT interfaces. What you should know about interfaces then is that every synthetic interface is modeled around our senses. Some interfaces interact with one sense, a button (touch). Others interact with more senses, a button with a red light (touch and sight). Or a button with a red light emitting a sound (touch, sight, hearing). In any case the best interface is the one that better relates to your senses, in a way and with a language that is easy to decode and to interact with, for us people.
In technology interfaces are evolving rapidly. We have seen 2D interfaces, 3D interfaces, holographic interfaces and more. The more we dig in deeper into designing interfaces and adapting them to new technologies, we are approaching the concept of: no interface as the best interface.
We are used to interact with technology with a number of different interfaces. The process by which we interact with those interfaces can be summarized in the following steps: brain > senses > interface > IT system. And the other way around for feedback data. I can clearly see that in the future we will be able to shorten this chain, eliminating one of the steps. The interface itself. The reason for this, is because as atoms will merge with bits and technology will become more and more bio-integrated, we will be able to connect our brain directly to IT systems, through our senses as direct interfaces. To give you a better picture of this concept, imagine if you could disconnect your senses from your brain, literally disconnecting your body from your brain. Now imagine you have a virtual body, your Avatar in a virtual reality dimension. In an Avatar you would have “virtual copies” of your senses. Eyes, mouth, nose and so on. Imagine you could connect those directly to your brain, without having to pass through a graphical interface.
When this will happen, not only we will have reached a point in evolution, where atoms and bits will have fully converged, but our real and virtual dimensions will be completely integrated and we will be able to truly live in a multi-dimensional world, because our senses will be able to perceive those different dimensions. Dimensions which our connected brains will create, where there will be no need to have an interface any longer. What we now know as APIs, will become seamless biologically integrated connectors, allowing a new level, not of experience, but of living as a whole.
Virtual Reality is only but one step, towards this vision of the future. Virtual Reality is the eco-system in which we will create our parallel dimensions. Initially separated by interfaces to access and interact with them, but soon deeply connected with our very own biological existence.
In my opinion the dimension of life we know of, in all its beauty and complexity, does not offer the ability for us to live and experience all the dimensions our brain can conceive. It is true that our life is what our brain makes of it. But it is also true that our brain is limited by our body as is. In fact you can see how many efforts we have been doing to augment our limited bodies, from body armors, exo-skeletons, and Viagra! Then again, we still don’t know how much our brain is able to “sustain”. Maybe the limited percentage we think (it’s not scientifically proven) we use of our brain is focused on decoding one dimension. I am certain that in the future, technology will allow us to tap into the unknown parts of our brain and maybe find out we are really made to exist in multiple dimensions, rather than only one. This is also not a new idea either. Religious beliefs of life after death is perhaps the oldest case of a dimension thought to be after our lives.
As I often conclude in a discussion on topics about the future… don’t limit your thoughts when thinking about the future. The paradigms on which your beliefs have been built may radically and rapidly change and be disrupted. Be prepared to face the future with an open mind and open heart. At the end of the day, those are the two elements that really count, when you will be looking for an old interface to the world you knew, that will not be there any longer.
This post has been written as a contribution to Daniel Egger’s book: Future Value Generation. You can find a peek on Daniel’s methodology and work at the following link: http://www.slideshare.net/activistiam/future-value-generation-framework