18 May 2009

The future

Charlie Stross goes all Bruce Sterling talking about computer games in the near future, with some very interesting stops along the way.
I don't think we're likely to get much more than a terabit per second of bandwidth out of any channel, be it wireless or a fibre-optic cable, because once you get into soft X-rays your network card becomes indistinguishable from a death ray.
For example: if you point your phone at a shop front tagged with an equivalent location in the information space, you can squint at it through the phone's screen and see ... whatever the cyberspace equivalent of the shop is. If the person you're pointing it at is another player in a live-action game you're in (that is: if their phone is logged in at the same time, so the game server knows you're both in proximity), you'll see their avatar. And so on.
Storage is basically so cheap it's nearly free. Why not record a constant compressed video stream of everything you look at with those glasses? Tag it by location and vocalization — do speech-to-text on your conversation — and by proximity to other people. Let your smartphone remember things and jog your memory: you'll be able to query it with things like, "who was that person sitting at the other side of the table from me in the Pike Brewery last Tuesday evening with the fancy jacket I commented on?" Or maybe "what did Professor Jones say fifteen minutes into their Data Structures lecture on Friday while I was asleep?" I don't know about you, but I could really do with a prosthetic memory like that — and as our populations age, as more people have to live with dementia, there'll be huge demand for it. In Japan today, the life expectancy of a girl baby is 102 years. Which sounds great, until you learn that in Japan today, 20% of over-85s have Alzheimers.
I'd like you to imagine a pair of such video glasses — but with an opaque screen, rather than an overlay. Between the camera on the outside of each "lens" and the eye behind it, we can perform any necessary image convolution or distortion needed to correct my visual problems. We can also give our glasses digital zoom, wider viewing angles, and low light sensitivity! Not to mention overlaying our surroundings with a moving map display if we're driving. All great stuff, except for the little problem of such glasses blocking eye contact, which means they're not going to catch on in social environments — except possibly among folks who habitually wear mirrorshades.
I do love that he squeezed in the mirrorshades.

No comments: