Face to Face, Wherever You Are
Virtual reality will be much more than a next-generation gaming console. The fiction we have portrays billions of people jacking in to a computer-generated alternate reality, where people escape the real world for hours a day.
I think the opposite will happen.
Virtual reality isn't just a display technology, it's a communication technology. It will connect people in a way that was never before possible.
VR, AR, and 3D-scanning will fuse together, leading to a hyper-connected remote society. Teleportation will be casual. We will become like wizards, and distance will be an old joke. People will be face to face, wherever they are.
Scanning the Baby Room
It's 2040. Michelle is having a baby.
She lives in New York, and just re-finished an old room: light blue paint, a crib, newly hung pictures, and a mobile dangling from the ceiling. Her Aunt Lauren, who lives in Germany, is eager to see it (she's got a few kids of her own).
Michelle is wearing a sleek pair of white glasses. They're indistinguishable from sunglasses, but they have all kinds of cameras, sensors, and microphones built in. "Begin scan." She talks to her glasses regularly - everyone does.
Standing in the center of her room, she slowly pivots herself in a circle, glancing at every corner of the room. The base scan was complete after 10 seconds. "Bhringg!" It was that familiar "base scan complete" sound. She knew what to do next.
Little arrows popped up around the room, showing her the areas of her scan that needed more detail. She leaned into the crib, peaked behind furniture, and got up close and personal to some of the tchotchskes on her desk. Her head was like a flashlight. As she looked at things, they got meshed in real-time. White lines would tightly wrap around objects like cellophane, giving a preview of what their digital profile would be. The more closely she looked, the more accurate the model would be.
Two minutes after she started her scan, she was satisfied.
"Alright Siri, it's ready."
A loading symbol came up. Within seconds, a small 3D model appeared in front of her, floating in the air, and slowly rotating. It was geometrically identical to her room. A near perfect replica. It was even able to capture the materials and lighting from the point in time of her scan.
"What would you like to name it?"
"Baby room. Can you send this to Aunt Lauren?"
The 3D model was compressed down to 4.2 megabytes, and was texted over to Germany.
From Germany to New York
Aunt Lauren lives in an apartment in Munich, 3,800 miles away. She was about to teleport to New York City. A few minutes later, Michelle got a notification:
"Allow Aunt Lauren into Baby Room?"
A second later, Aunt Lauren materialized as a hologram.
The Coronavirus hurt the airline industry, but the Metaverse killed it.
Aunt Lauren was like a ghost. She was a digital hallucination. Only Michelle could see her through her augmented reality glasses. But it was her! "Michelle!" Lauren screamed with joy when she entered the space, and extended her hands as high as she could. "This is beautiful!"
It looked just like her. She created an avatar of herself using one of the scanning apps. All you have to do is stand in front of a camera, rotate yourself, and an avatar is auto-generated. Many people scan themselves every morning so they have their whole wardrobe available in the Metaverse.
Aunt Lauren's VR headset (which costs her $29.99 a month), has all the bells and whistles. Cameras on the inside and outside of her headset animated her avatar in real-time. In front of Lauren was a digital human, with blinking eyes, moving lips, and fingers that could each express themselves.
In Munich, Aunt Lauren was blind to the interiors of her own apartment. She was blind to her kids, her husband and her dog. Her mind was entrenched in the freshly-minted VR model of Michelle's baby room.
"Oh my god!" The first thing Lauren did was lean into the crib to look at the details, which Michelle's father crafted by hand. She then looked back up at Michelle and began walking towards her. As Lauren took steps through her Munich living room with a VR headset on, Michelle was wearing an AR headset, and saw Lauren's avatar step closer and closer towards her.
Michelle gave a wave to her Aunt. The cameras in her glasses captured her hand movements, and animated Michelle's avatar in Lauren's VR experience.
Aunt Lauren didn't have to get on a plane and travel to New York to share a human experience with her niece. They couldn't hug, or eat the same food together, but they could communicate as if they were face to face. For half an hour, they caught up, chatted about things in the new space, and pulled up pictures in the form of holograms.
They made a point to meet in the Metaverse every week.
Just like Michelle and Lauren, all of society will be tapped into the Metaverse. It won't be a synthetic universe, and it won't be a game. It will be a leap in our communication paradigm. It will be an immersive alternate to texting, emails, and video calls. The limitations of distance will be gone, and society will have to re-calibrate itself to this new paradigm.
Ideas to expand
3D-scanning will advance to a point where any person can scan their own space and share it easily across the world. Virtual reality headsets will let other people experience those spaces. space. Virtual reality
Two version of the 3D model - local and synced, vs. cloud