Thursday, November 07, 2013

Total Net Immersion

Do you know about Google Glass? The first I heard of it was from reading about a woman who got a traffic ticket for wearing the goggles while driving.

Google Glass

The traffic incident makes me wonder how using Google Glass differs, in principle, from checking a GPS while driving. In practice, probably the fact that it’s a heads-up display hovering in a little square at the top right of the glasses (if I’m interpreting the website demo correctly) makes the difference. I would certainly find that too distracting. Essentially, this thing is an Internet access device controlled by voice commands and a touchpad in one of the earpieces of the glasses.

Lots of science-fictional societies include personal net access technology either worn on the user’s head or actually embedded in the brain. I had no idea we were so close to fulfilling that prediction. Many alarmists already deplore the isolation produced by strolling around in public talking, texting, or web-surfing on cell phones. Imagine how that situation will intensify when most people have “phones” that are effectively part of the user’s body. Google Glass is currently priced in the four-figure range, so it won’t become ubiquitous tomorrow. However, so was our first computer (in 1983), and that Apple is far surpassed today by my husband’s iPad at a fraction of the cost. The ubiquitous personal web interface will pervade our culture soon enough. Will the next step be controlling the interface by thought alone, as amputees do with some experimental prosthetics?

Worries about privacy inevitably arise from the prospect of cities thronged with people wearing a combination Internet browser and camera attached to their heads:

Google Glass Privacy Concerns

On a related topic, how about the latest VR invention, Oculus Rift? Testers claim this gaming headset fulfills the promise of a genuine total-immersion experience:

Oculus Rift

Are we moving toward the real-world implementation of another familiar SF trope, a virtual-reality realm players will feel they’re actually living in? “Addiction” to immersive video game environments is already a concern for many observers. Suppose this latest technology raises the lifelike quality of the experience to such a level that users will never want to emerge from the virtual setting? Who’d have thought the common fictional motif of getting literally lost in a game world might become a fact this soon? I used this plot premise myself in “Fantasia Quest,” a novella in my story collection DAME ONYX TREASURES: LOVE AMONG THE MONSTERS, but when I wrote that story (less than two years ago), I assumed that degree of immersion was still totally imaginary.

Dame Onyx Treasures

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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