Next-Gen Tech: Virtual Reality and More

Profound change is happening in how we interact with technology, and it has nothing to do with the Web. Or at least nothing to do with the PC as we know it.

Minority Report” generated all kinds of buzz when it first came out, for both the gestural computing interface and the portrayal of extreme personalization of the advertising. The movie set forth a vision for what the future of computing might look like and is referenced by futurists. But something funny has been going recently, as I swear I’ve heard more mentions of the movie over the last six months than I had heard in the previous six years since its release.

Clearly, it’s got something to do with rapid growth and advancement of both digital out-of-home and new computing interfaces, especially Microsoft Surface and Apple’s iPhone. These devices, along with the Wii Remote (Wiimote) and others, radically reinvent the way people interact with digital technologies.

Equally as important and perhaps even more remarkable are the shocking changes in how digital technologies interact with us. This isn’t a new topic for me. I’ve written about this new generation of convergence before. But the buzz continues, and the parade of incredibly cool and inspiring examples marches along as well. So I figured I’d share a few of the best that have come through my inbox recently:

Wiimote Hacks

Johnny Lee’s hacks have likely made the rounds, but it’s simply remarkable what he’s able to do with a $40 remote and a little ingenuity. Johnny Lee became a YouTube celebrity with his video showing a simple multitouch interface leveraging the Wiimote. The TED demos take it to a whole other level. Be sure to check out the link to his full bio and more.

Virtual Reality at Home?

Seattle-based company TN Games is working on ways to bridge the gap between the real world and the virtual one. It has developed a vest and plans to produce a helmet that promise to let gamers “experience the physical consequences of [their] actions in the virtual world!” If the Wiimote is a remarkable piece of technology that has made gesture-based control of computing interfaces mass market, do TN Games and others like it stand to bring virtual reality to the masses as well?

Ultrasound Makes the Virtual Feel Real

I found this one on PSFK. Scientists seem to have figured out a way to control sonic waves so precisely that they can simulate the sensation of touching an object that’s not actually physically there. As PSFK writer Dan Gould notes, audio and visuals are already incredibly realistic in virtual reality and gaming environments, and this sort of force feedback brings in a whole new dimension. Having just bought a copy of Electronic Arts “NHL 09,” I’m fearful of the day I will be sitting on the couch yet might actually feel a crushing Zdeno Chara body check. Good times.

Monsters Invade Tokyo Bay!

I received a link to a video featuring a holographic monster from a colleague and subsequently found another one covering the same project. This was evidently part of a promotion for an upcoming movie release. A very cool 3-D looking projection that used finely sprayed water as its screen. Like the examples above, it begins to foretell a future in which we don’t need screens to deliver digital experiences.

Augmented Reality Demo

I discovered this augmented reality demo via David Polinchock’s excellent blog. It’s a very cool demonstration of how the mashing up of the real world and computer-generated data is reinventing even simple game play. Just imagine what this could do for a print or an out-of-home ad.

The pace of change here and the implications for the future of computing and marketing are at once frightening and exciting. Opportunities abound, and despite economic concerns, it’s a great time to be in this space.

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