Augmented reality (part 2)
Thursday, 17 December 2009
Today my brother told me that he had seen a show on television in which parents had a strange wish fulfilled. Their three year old son died ten years ago, and they wished for a family picture in which he was shown as he would have looked if he was still alive.
There is software that can calculate with pretty much accuracy how anybody will look in the future, and with a little photoshopping this wish could easily be fulfilled.
But I wondered what will be next? Will people in the future photoshop their complete family albums, bringing in all the dead family members as if they are still here? Not only dead children, but also parents, partners or even people that never existed. There is no limit, of course.
And how about implementing augmented reality? As can be seen here, there are big steps taken in mixing ordinary reality with software generated reality. I can imagine that one day tin the not very far away future there will be software that works like this: you put on goggles and earphones and they project upon the real world the interactive avatars of the people that are long dead. A three year old son that died ten years ago, can be seen and heard growing up with the rest of your family.
My brother brought up the possibility that people with extreme guilty feelings about dead people can do sessions in which they are told by avatars of these people that everything is okay and that they are no longer angry for what has been done. Considered what already today can be done in games and movies, this digital contact with the dead can be made so realistic that it would probably help certain people.
Maybe it might be a bit to extensive to digitally re-create all the deceased individuals. In that case we could co-create a God. According to the same concept by which Wikipedia is created, as the ever changing consensus of all living people. I think this could be done right now, al the necessary technology is already available
The real breakthrough for artificial reality applications like these would be a technique to connect the digital output directly to the nerve cells of the brain. In science fiction this is called “plug in”. Then the concept of augmented reality become really interesting: if plugging in to artificial generated (aspects of) reality was possible, you could no longer tell what is real. You can spend your whole life with an artificial partner that grows old with you and even makes your live miserable, if that is what you want. Since all digital techniques are condensed imagination anyway, there is no limit to all of this.
The final chapter of this little story might be that we are already experiencing all this at this very moment: maybe our brain generates an artificial reality that is being projected upon the real reality. In that case you are not reading my story, but you make this story up yourself. And not only the story, but also me, Frits Jonker.
Before it is possible to raise the dead through augmented reality, there is the problem of speech that has to be solved too. To create images is one thing, but to re create the voice of somebody who isn’t here anymore, is a real challenge. In our household are already several artificial voices, but they are not very convincing yet.
Already in the thirties records were made on which people made their guitar talk. This is a primitive form of artificial speech. Dolf Hell has such a record, and he said it is on YouTube too, but I couldn’t find it. I did find this recording by Alvino Rey: