by Balaji Narasimhan

Going Beyond Touch Computing with Virtual Reality

Apr 28, 20153 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsGoogle GlassInternet

Until now, we have used computational data as an addendum to the world, so it is just a matter of time before reality fits into the confines of a virtual world.

June 29, 2007, was a watershed for technology because it was on this day that the iPhone was launched. No longer would you have to press buttons on a mobile–you could flick your thumb up and down in a manner that was most intuitive. This was truly a revolution.

Sadly, everything else that has followed in personal computing is just an evolution. We have made the screens larger for tablets and smaller for watches, but nothing else has changed.

In effect, for almost eight years, there has not been any revolution in touch computing.

What could be next? Google Glass looked like a strong contender, but was creepily scary from a privacy angle, and died quickly–it became publicly available on May 15, 2014 (a prototype was available from April 15, 2013) and was stopped a mere eight months later on January 15, 2015, when Google said it would stop producing it. Google says that it is still committed to Glass, but what will happen next–and when–is a matter of speculation. 

But Glass points the way–augmented reality, in one form or the other, is going to be the key. Until now, we have used computational data as an addendum to the world, so it is just a matter of time before reality fits into the confines of a virtual world. 

This idea is not new. Over 2o years ago, in a column called Briar Bytes that I wrote for a college publication (the story never appeared because the publication was shelved; I don’t remember if they accepted or rejected my piece, which contained words like teledildonics) I mentioned that virtual reality would drive our lives. Unfortunately, much of what I wrote has remained in the realm of science fiction.

Today, perhaps, things are changing. Companies like Facebook and Oculus Rift are experimenting with uses of VR because this could be the way social media is heading. If–rather, when–this happens, you could see social media coming full circle because you will be meeting your friends in different continents in a virtual world and chatting the way you were before technology came in and gave you crackberry thumbs. 

In some ways, technology may perhaps disappear. As in the oft-quoted example of ubiquitous motors, you may find technology becoming so seamless that you will be able to meet your next-door neighbor and somebody a thousand kilometers away and not be able to tell the difference insofar as the interface is concerned. 

This is not just eye candy. You will also perhaps be able to use all the information you need, and have only the right amount of information that you need so that you never suffer from data overload. 

Of course, this Utopian dream also begs the question–if everybody had the right amount of information at all times, what will make you unique? 

I don’t know–but then again, a columnist’s job is to raise questions, not to know all the answers.