Learning for 2020

My journey to understand what life will be in year 2020 and how we should prepare our next generation to cope with life at 2020.

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Looking beyond 2020 - rendered physical reality

Let me first get some of the terms clear.

Physical reality - the physical world we are familiar with.

Virtual reality - a computer generated 3D-like (albeit rendered on a 2D screen) with support such as head-mount visual display to general 3D images. Recent development include 3D television (by directing different light into viewer's eye to create the 3D visual effect.)

Imagined (created) reality - the sense of reality when you are deeply engaged in a role play simulation such as Fablusi role play simulation. The information you received to create the reality is minimum. Your imagination fills in most of the details. This can also happen when you are reading a novel. The look of the character in the novel is mostly created by your imagination or creativity.

Now, consider this situation, from an Intel webpage, via Better Humans
In a hospital in Houston, two surgeons appear to be performing a difficult procedure on a cardiac patient. In fact, only one of the doctors in the room is real. The other is a replica - a lifelike physical model whose shape, appearance and movements precisely mimic those of a specialist in Tokyo who is performing the actual work.
When you finished using a replica for one purpose, you could transform it into another useful shape. A human replica could morph into a desk, a chair could become a keyboard, a lamp could be transformed into a ladder.

This is what the Carnegie Mellon University researchers called Dynamic Physical Rendering - a rendered physical reality.

Sound impossible? Here is their plan.

The source of the replicate may be captured via 3D motions. Carnegie researchers have already developed
technology that points a set of cameras at an event and enables the viewer to virtually fly around and watch the event from a variety of positions. The DPR researchers believe a similar approach could be used to capture 3D scenes for use in creating physical, moving 3D replicas.

To create the physical replicate, they propose to use "a form of programmable matter". This programmable matter is in fact millions of small spherical catom which, a prototype (much bigger than the eventual version) has been partially* demonstrated in 2004. The final version will use electrostatic forces rather than electromagnetic forces to hold these catoms together or move. This simulation shows how 3D catoms can find other catom.

Obviously this kind of research will provide a very different future for us. The way of experiencing the world and hence forming our understanding of the world will be different. We should be excited and be prepared.

*partially because the prototype is 2D enabled instead of 3D. But the concept has been proven.