Science Fiction becomes our (Mixed) Reality

I was looking through a couple of talks on mixed and augmented reality, and I came across one from the 2015 SVVR conference by David Holz (CTO, Magic Leap). You can watch the entire talk here. But the Sci-Fi nerd in me wants to repost just my favorite parts below.

“Right now, when people say ‘digital,’ they mean it doesn’t look real. It doesn’t act real. It’s not a real thing. It’s this whole other separate thing that is not part of my normal experience. Over time, as all of these things come together, that really changes fundamentally. The digital medium becomes a physical material of the everyday world. Kids might say, some things are made of atoms and waves, and some things are made of bits and bytes. How we perceive the world changes at a philosophical level.”

“Our kids are going to get really weird. When I say I see something, I’m very biased to the things in the real world. Now all of a sudden, sights don’t have to be sights, sound doesn’t have to be sounds. All of these things can be remapped and interchanged. Reality in the future will mean something different than it does to us now, and the human experience is going to vastly expand. Kids won’t just play with soccer balls, they’ll play with atoms, galaxies, and quantum particles.”

So why did I post this almost Descartian view of reality?

Augmented Reality has been around in Sci-Fi literature since 1893 with the first mention of La Stilla in Jules Verne’s The Carpathian Castle. The Italian prima donna is thought to be alive, but is later shown to be a projected still image accompanying a high-quality phonograph recording.

1893 - First appearance of Augmented Reality in Literature

1893 – La Stilla in The Carpathian Castle (the first appearance of Augmented Reality in Literature)

But how can we discuss science fiction depicting the futuristic technologies, the result of new scientific discoveries, or different social systems and the consequences of this change without discussing Asimov.

My favorite reference to Augmented Reality in Asimovian literature has to be during a Seldon Crisis in the original Foundation Trilogy (1942). A Seldon Crisis, named after Hari Seldon, is a fictional socio-historical series of events culminating in a seemingly catastrophic social and political situation that, to be surmounted, would eventually leave only one possible, inevitable, course of action. At the climax of each Crisis, Seldon would appear to the citizens of the city in a pre-recorded hologram, reassuring the citizens of Terminus that they remained on track with the Seldon Plan.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and we start to see more and more traces of Augmented Reality turning into Mixed Reality with Stargate Atlantis (2004), Doctor Who (2007), Black Mirror (2011) and more.

AR Holographic projection of Hari Seldon in the Terminus Time Vault in Asimov's Foundation Series.

AR Holographic projection of Hari Seldon in the Terminus Time Vault in Asimov’s Foundation Series.

With mixed reality we have the potential for Sci-Fi to come into our daily life with the real world suddenly augmented with virtual objects and characters, walking around and interacting with the us as much as we can interact with them. Initially it was only the live world and live experiences that would involve all our senses (visual, audio, haptic, olfactory and more). With the advent of mixed reality, and the ability of current procedural content generation algorithms (insert shameless plug to my own research) to use their breadth of experience in VR to tailoring the virtual elements in mixed reality, this balance changes. In the future, VR may pale in comparison to Mixed Reality.

Isaac Asimov summarised the importance of science fiction in 1978, and his statement is (not so) surprisingly very relevant to our Mixed Reality discussion. He stated:

“It is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be… Science fiction writers foresee the inevitable, and although problems and catastrophes may be inevitable, solutions are not. Individual science fiction stories may seem as trivial as ever to the blinder critics and philosophers of today – but the core of science fiction, its essence…has become crucial to our salvation if we are to be saved at all.

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Magic Leap & Star Wars

There’s a new partnership in town. That of Magic Leap and Lucasfilm’s ILMxLAB! And the first thing the duo released was this gorgeous video featuring two absolutely iconic characters from Star Wars!

I know Magic Leap has been a little tight lipped about the details of their product (a light weight mixed reality headset), and the 1000 odd users that have tested it have definitely complied with their NDAs, but once you watch this video, you can’t help but hope that this is real. I know I definitely drooled mentally when R2-D2 projected a mixed reality experience onto a real table from within another mixed reality experience!

If the interview is to be believed, the device shall be out “hopefully soon-ish” and this Fall we may see the first of the headsets hit the market! I for one am absolutely looking forward to it 🙂

Calling all Whovians of India… 50th Anniversary Meet

Dear Whovians in India,

As you probably know by now, India will not be screening the 50th Anniversary show in theatres or on any channel here. Our sincerest apologies for the delay in getting back to you; we’ve been (and are still) trying continuously to persuade BBC reps and various broadcast partners to screen it here in India. Unfortunately, all we’ve received are flat out ‘no’s or polite British non-committal responses. Torrents zindabad! it is, then.

However, on the bright side, we collected almost 500 sign ups for the 50th in India, and many of you have emailed and asked me to organize a unofficial Whovian meet up in the cities. For this we will need your help.

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Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 3D Initiative India

At first there was a seed. This seed was a tiny little idea in the mind of one Shefali A. While all other Whovian’s in India thought, “Damn it, not only is BBC Entertainment cancelled in India, but I’m sure the 3D special won’t release in the theaters either.” and started wondering about what torrent to get, this fantastic girl, in the middle of hot and sweaty Mumbai sat down and whispered,

I really really want them to release an imax version here…. maybe we can request it….

The seed grew, and took root, and became what I’m going to refer as the great Doctor Who 50th Anniversary 3D Initiative India.

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Reliance – High Court Scam

Reliance in India, these days, seems to be making all their money by harassing ex-customers for illegal demands of money, and blackmailing their subscribers with fake bills. I was shocked to find more than 500 cases where people have faced the same situation that I am about to narrate all over India filed in the Consumer Court forums. I would assume at this point the High Court would take action against the company’s blatant disregard for the law, and wrongful impersonation of the Honorable High Court Justice / Lawyers.

However, since there is no action taken so far, I will try my best to document my own fight with them for the same, and its outcome here. Hopefully, people can follow in my footsteps, and not get intimidated by this corporate thief. My own case will be recorded below in the chronological order in which it happened, this is as much for my documentation as for helping the next sucker that they try to con.

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Gross Abuse of Women’s Rights by Bandra Police Station

I know that a lot of friends and family have already heard about this absolutely disgraceful abuse of power by a bunch of policeman over what seems like such a trivial matter as filing an FIR for a stolen mobile. However I figured that most people have simply read about the article in the Mumbai Mirror and haven’t heard my side of the story. This is my way of reaching out to the rest of you guys on the world wide web. I believe a little bit of awareness of our rights and the law goes a long way. This kindda thing may not happen or be relevant to a lot of people out there but even if it helps a single person I think I’d be happy.

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