There is something special happening in a generic office park in an uninspiring suburb near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Inside, amid the low gray cubicles, clustered desks, and empty swivel chairs, an impossible 8-inch robot drone from an alien planet hovers chest-high in front of a row of potted plants. It is steampunk-cute, minutely detailed. I can walk around it and examine it from any angle. I can squat to look at its ornate underside. Bending closer, I bring my face to within inches of it to inspect its tiny pipes and protruding armatures. I can see polishing swirls where the metallic surface was â€œmilled.â€ When I raise a hand, it approaches and extends a glowing appendage to touch my fingertip. I reach out and move it around. I step back across the room to view it from afar. All the while it hums and slowly rotates above a desk. It looks as real as the lamps and computer monitors around it. It’s not. I’m seeing all this through a synthetic-reality headset. Intellectually, I know this drone is an elaborate simulation, but as far as my eyes are concerned it’s really there, in that ordinary office. It is a virtual object, but there is no evidence of pixels or digital artifacts in its three-dimensional fullness. If I reposition my head just so, I can get the virtual drone to line up in front of a bright office lamp and perceive that it is faintly transparent, but that hint does not impede the strong sense of it being present. This, of course, is one of the great promises of artificial reality – either you get teleported to magical places or magical things get teleported to you. And in this prototype headset, created by the much speculated about, ultrasecretive company called Magic Leap, this alien drone certainly does seem to be transported to this office in Florida – and its reality is stronger than I thought possible.
The video is very cool, but the rig they’re using makes it very clear this is still very early days. That being said – it looks amazing.
Seeing how augmented reality would fit in.
We were in a mall, and the first thing that occurred to me was the dynamic, personalized coupons and ads spammed in front of Every Single Store.
My friend goes “imagine we walk out this door and theirs a bouncing exclamation point in the parking lot above your car”.
Imagine the virtual blimp in the sky advertising who knows what.
Imagine enter the mall and being prompted with a “For a mere $10 you can have an ad free shopping experience today. For $20, we’ll even stop tracking you.”
The other scenario was “Hey, did you see that catch by Mike Trout last night?” and suddenly everyone shuts up as they start watching baseball video highlights or reading about the catch, their AR picking up the scope of the conversation and bring content up. Nobody saying anything.
“Did you see that new movie?” “No, but I see Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 75% score and Doug Burlap though the acting was wooden. Also, did you know that the director was accused of being seen in a hot tub with the lead actress?” “Oh, noâ€¦I just thought it was a good movie.”
So, I get it, it’s neat. I’ve read the sci-fi. Just getting the balance right is going to be really, really hard, I think.
When it reaches out to touch you, do you actually feel anything? Reality is not all visual, and the same thing is going to eventually apply to artificial reality as well.