Saturday, May 13, 2017

My Digital Manifesto

There is no small amount of hype concerning Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and Artificial Intelligence lately. The three seemingly separate disciplines have been coalescing into an overall technology that encompases some important hardware and software developments. Many of us have longed for the day when we can pop in a set of contact lenses to interact with our tech. While that development is still on the drawing board, we have been waiting patiently for some kind of affordable head mounted device. I believe before we reach that point, the hype will settle down around to what has already been accomplished. Here is my timeline for the next four years. Your predictions might vary slightly.

     1.   Camera based AR
Facebook has committed to creating an augmented experience through the everyday smartphone. There have been numerous companies in the recent past that have had the same general vision, such as Metaio, which was purchased by Apple a few years back, and Niantic, the creators of Pokemon Go. Everyone has a phone with a camera, and the best way to make people comfortable with the concept of Augmented Reality is to get it to the masses. There is no better company to do that than Facebook. Period.

    2.   WebVR
I’ve been playing in virtual worlds since the creation of VRML back in the 1980s. With the addition of a web browser plug-in, you could surf to any site that ran VRML code. It was mesmerizing, and much of what was learned has been applied to gaming over the years. As VRML waned, there was a brief comeback in the form of updated web standards called X3D, and X3Dom. But it always remained a niche technology. Recently there is a renewed interest in porting VR to the web. WebVR will only help to align the different disciplines under a common banner.

    3.   Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies
I can’t emphasise with enough strength how important blockchain tech will usher in true interoperability in the next few years. Most of the world is finally waking up to the concept of Bitcoin now. While Bitcoin is the dominant face of the cryptocurrency market, the real strength is blockchain. I will be so bold to say that most gaming currencies today will be slowly converted to an underlying blockchain system in order to stay relevant. If you are an investor, however, you really need to pay attention to blockchain development.

    4.   Assignment Servers
This is a concept created by an insane little man by the name of Philip Rosedale. His newest current venture, High Fidelity, uses it. To quote their FAQ: “The Assignment Server is a High Fidelity service that allows people to share their computers with each other to act as servers or as scripted interactive content. Devices register with the assignment server as being available for work, and the assignment server delegates them to domain servers that want to use them. Units of a cryptocurrency, will be exchanged by users of the assignment server, to compensate each other for their use of each other’s devices. The assignment server can analyze the bandwidth, latency, and Network Address Translation capabilities of the contributed devices to best assign them to jobs. So, for example, an iPhone connected over home WiFi might become a scripted animal wandering around the world, while a well-connected home PC on an adequately permissive router might be used as a voxel server.”

In a nutshell, this is a form of peer to peer networking. I won’t go into all the explanations of the other terms used in this paragraph. I encourage you to visit the High Fidelity site for yourself to learn more.

   5. Microsoft Mixed Reality
Can you say “One ring to rule them all”? The recent Microsoft Build conference has revealed that they get the idea that everyone wants a piece of the pie. And MS says “yeah, you can haz pie”. Hardware is forking all over the place right now, thanks to Asia’s aggressive tech developers. And one thing that Microsoft understands well is that hardware is secondary to the goal of the experience. You can’t have an app work on an android device, and not on iPhone without two different versions of it. I use them as an example, but envision the myriad of devices already collecting dust in your game room right now. Microsoft wants to change that. And they’re doing it in small steps so they don’t scare anyone into screaming “monopoly”. Keep your eyes on the changes coming to Windows in the near future. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.