The Future of Computers and Virtuality

My first introduction to the IT world was when my colleagues used key punch cards to put in functioning commands into computers. I was not brave enough to go near a computer until they became desktops but with monochrome screens at best. I worked in these DOS-based programs on those green screens and white type until finally they became black screens with white type. Being a visual person, I thought to myself, “There has to be a better way.” In my mind’s eye, I saw a better functionality to a more user friendly computer and one day the windows interface was born.

Also, around this time period, I had dreams, wonderful dreams. In them, I saw a static picture on a document or book and then it would automatically and magically come to life. I saw a movie within a book telling a more profound and detailed story as it played out it’s story. In my mind’s eyes, I saw an exciting future.

Well, the future is now upon us. While attending the HP Discover 2012 Conference, I witnessed something most incredible. Stouffer Egan, CEO of Autonomy, gave an excellent presentation on “Information Optimization: Big Data” which ended with an incredible demonstration near the end of his talk.

Blank Placard

In succession, he took out three examples. He set up the stage so that he was using what appears to be a new generation of a HP Pad which could read and showcase the information he was about to show us. A camera was brought in so that we could see what the HP Pad sees and what the consumer could now also view. First, he brought out a plain white placard. He positions the HP Pad in front of it and then a trailer for the Harry Potter movie starts to play. The amazing part is that there is only a blank board there, but now there is a movie trailer showing.  See the image below.  Dynamic information and advertising are a simple step away.

Harry Potter Trailer

Then, he brings out another larger placard which simply is an enlarged copy of a newspaper with a picture on it. He places the HP Pad to read it and what we see is that the static picture now becomes an actual TV live stream of a news station with news reporters who are updating the story with the latest breaking news specific to that story. The static picture somehow changes into a real-time video and audio newscast.  This is taking communication and interactivity to a whole new level in the most timely manner.

Newspaper Comes Alive

Finally, he takes out the largest of blank boards but this time he turns it over to show a rendering or representation of a comic hero. It is over six feet in height. Once more the HP Pad is focussed in on the placard. The camera connects us to what we can now see. Iron Man appears in front of us in 3D form! I am not kidding. When you look visually with your eyes onto the stage, nothing is there. However, when you look through the HP Pad and the camera which is now showcased on the huge overhead screens, you see a holographic image of Iron Man that is moving. You see him blast off the stage into the air and then come softly back down for a landing. Only then has the very quiet and respectful audience of IT specialists break their silence with “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” and “Wow!” The future is now around the corner for the average consumer to interact in a totally new concept of reality.

Iron Man Comes Alive

I know what I visualized a few decades ago but I never thought it would come to pass so quickly if at all. I guess it is like the expression that “If you can visualize it, it can be achieved.” I am so thankful that there are people within organizations like HP and other computer companies who can make our lives more interesting and more dynamic. Although I had the vision of these possibilities, I had no way of making it come to fruition.

I am happy with this progress but the other philosophical side of me asks, “How much of reality are we blurring? Will we know what is real or not soon?” I can’t help but think of the Matrix movies, as well as the comparison of life and dreaming to the movie of Inception. I think of how there are worlds within worlds. People have gone through the World Wide Web of the Internet to sub-worlds of internal web-structured worlds, such as Social Media sites like Facebook and Twitter. People are starting to exist so much in this manner and almost exclusively in these sub-worlds that actual human face-to-face interaction is turning into a premium and a minimalist activity. Is this ok or is this just another orientation and change in our communicative forms? Maybe now we get to connect with more like-minded people by choosing what aspects of our lives we choose to pursue and with whom.

I may have become philosophical but the questions do remain to be considered and should be discussed. Progress is needed but how do we deal with it? How do we keep pace with it? What are the benefits of virtual worlds? Are we growing and developing as a society and individual human beings? How do we incorporate these great technological advancements while not losing our grasp on reality or our humanity?

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