The Convivial Society: Vol. 3, No. 1
I had a job building augmented reality software for frontline factory workers, and I wanted to try and address your question about how likely this “reality +” really is. There are a few facts to contend with:
1. Unlike some other emergent technologies, virtual and augmented reality haven’t broken into the mainstream (despite significant investor/news hype.) Smart glasses aren’t ubiquitous in the way smart phones, speakers, watches, and doorbells have become, though they’ve been tried by most of the major tech companies. This could be a demand issue, or it could be connected with technical difficulties (see #2.)
2. The technology has a ways to go. HoloLenses can’t yet read the color black. Most people anecdotally report dizziness and disorientation as a symptom of calibrating VR/AR eyewear for use. Moreover, the sector is largely divided by hardware (like HoloLens or MagicLeap) and software (content creators), and the two need each other to justify their existence. Despite the fact that AR/VR were invented over 30 years ago, we’re still working through some fairly basic kinks.
3. The above two facts aren’t stopping tech companies from fulfilling their own metaverse prophecies. Many of them are starting slow with augmented reality, inserting digital objects into the real world for a less immersive experience (this capability is already integrated within many Google services.) The US military purchased hundreds of HoloLens 2 models, even after the product’s unveiling went comically awry. And finally, though AR to most of us probably means putting on funny filters during FaceTime calls, AR has quietly become a darling of the industrial world, where it’s a used as a tool to keep workers from making mistakes.
What to make of all this? Exactly as you point out: despite all our efforts, reality still bites (and the tech we create is not separate from us.) Acting like this future is preordained absolves us of the responsibility to make good choices. Thank you very much for writing about this!
Lovely piece. Thank you. Much to chew on.
Your description reminds me of the "world" of Snow Crash at best and Gibson's cyberpunk future at worst.
VR was fun, back in the 90's when I wrote a handball game that used a powerglove, but I dumped all that when big dáta became the norm and I was no longer comfortable with what I was doing. I remember somewhere, about the time Terminator I came out, a book where there was a band of renegade "real lifers" who were attacking the infrastructure that supported the VR world. If I remember correctly, the real-lifers lost.
You might feel like you're preaching to the choir, and I can't speak for anyone else, but reading essays like this help cleanse and refine my convictions, which then helps me lead and guide my family. So. Despite my relative absence as of late, thanks for continuing your work here.
Reading this, I thought: Sound like Matrix but without the war against the machines. We went voluntarily into the Matrix. Some AI is taking care of the maintenance of the system. Everybody is aware of everything. Everyone could leave the Matrix anytime. But everyone continuous to participate in Matrix.
Basically, the boring version of the movie. But at the same time, not far away from the world, we live in today.
Many thanks for your work.
Grub first, then VR.
I may not have written it out here --- but I value your deep and discerning explorations and dimension-hopping. thank you. You help me engage with the myriad constellations I interact with in. Cryptic response, perhaps, but exactly true.