You have been living under a rock if you haven’t caught on to approaching tsunami of consumer virtual and augmented reality products. They will be flooding your homes and workspaces through the future of game consoles and mobile devices. Don’t think it will stop with just being another amusing novelty like Nintendo’s Wii Fit. Some economists are predicting Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) will be the 7th and biggest media technology revolution in history (the first being movable type of the Guttenberg press and the last few being the internet and mobile devices). Markets will exceed $150 billion by 2020. Scientists have been predicting this for decades while writers have been predicting this for centuries. But when the economists predict this, it will transform these predictions into reality with billions of dollars of investment from global corporations. This is what has happened in just the last year or so. But where are these virtual worlds taking us?
Where hundreds of years of innovation in technology and communication has shrunk our finite physical world; the rapid growth of virtuality and creative media has provided us wholly new frontiers to explore and discover. This is expanding our universe on a daily basis. The latest developments of mainstream consumer products announced by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple will begin to surpass the Science Fiction fantasies of the past. Already Oculus Rift, Magic Leap, Hololens, Metaio software with their respective investments will be melting the boundaries between reality and virtuality. Based upon the universal excitement and enthusiasm of the Augmented World Expo (AWE) held in Silicon Valley California last month, be prepared for our world to become a cross between a video game and a theme park around every corner. The AWExpo was a Sci Fi wet-dream with grown adults becoming kids again. There was no bigger kid at AWE 2015 than Dr. Thomas A. Furness III, the Founding Director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory (HITLab), International.
Tom Furness AWE 2015 Keynote: “Being the Future”
As the featured keynote of AWE 2015, Tom Furness (the grandfather of Virtual & Augmented Reality) talked about “Being the Future.” Even though he is famous for his technological inventions and was the recipient of the conference’s inaugural visionary Auggie award, he spoke from the heart to explain where virtual worlds can take us. In his talk, he took us on an exploratory ride through time from his first days inventing virtual and augmented worlds for Fighter Pilots in the 1960’s to the future of the next generation of virtual worlds. Starting with his childhood dream as a 17 year-old witnessing Sputnik, he first sought to explore new worlds in space as an astronaut. Ironically, because of limited eyesight, his dream was denied only to have his imaginary vision empower us all with inventions of the superpower of Virtuality (the theme of AWE 2015).
In his keynote, he showed us how he pioneered and witnessed the gradual process of inventing immersive, 3D, stereo, audio/visual Head Mounted Displays (HMD) for virtual and augmented reality from the 1960’s to the futuristic displays today. We see in his many patents (some of which have long since expired) are still inspiring future products from Oculus Rift HMD, Google Glass and Magic Leap’s (alleged) retinal displays. Since working in parallel with two other grandfathers of VR, pioneers Ivan Sutherland (Sword of Damocles) and Morton Heilig (SensorRama), Tom sees that we have finally reached a turning point where their dreams of virtual worlds are becoming real and expanding potential in our everyday lives. This is realizing a dream what was once limited only to science fiction. Yet he did not talk about technology being the future. Instead, he emphasized how important imaginative people and creative ideas are to the future. He expressed that our measure of our success will be how we can make this real world a better place. This will be done by sharing the power of our imagination and the passion of our vision within future virtual worlds. Its about inspiration, learning, exploring, sharing, living more purposefully.
To some, they just see these huge investments in virtual and augmented reality as double-hump, Gartner Hype-Curve converging with an Internet sized economic bubble burst. However to Tom, it is the VR/AR dream coming true. With the ability, accessibility and affordability of virtual reality today, our universe will explode with the creative, cooperative economy and provide this virtuality revolution to everyone in the next generation and challenge them to make an even better world.
What is Next? How do we get there? Who cares?
This overnight virtuality phenomenon, which was 50 years in the making, is now breaking out of its “horseless-carriage” stage of novelty. This is where we stop seeing the new technology in old ways, but shift our paradigms towards the future and the next generation growing up with virtual reality as a given. In the hands of future artists, scientists, creative technologists, social entrepreneurs and humanity activists, we are beginning to anticipate what Arthur C. Clark describes as “significantly advanced technology becoming indistinguishable from magic.” It is both scary and exciting. How do we navigate the infinite possibilities that come with the convergence of reality, virtuality and the limitless imagination?
For Tom Furness, there is no predicting the future anymore. With the speed and constant state of innovation that has grown so rapidly, speculation is no longer practical. Now that technology innovation and economic barriers are no longer limitations, we can now just engage our imagination, envisioning a better future, and the technology will follow. Consequently, we now must do a better job of inspiring and exciting the next generation of talent to realize how much power they really have. We must encourage them to take creative leaps, formulate and build better solutions for the world, for everybody. With the melting of the boundaries between real, virtual and imaginary worlds, anything is possible and the world becomes a canvas for our imagination. Dr. Furness dreams of a Virtual World Society that can look beyond the technology and markets and look to the people and ideas that can leverage virtual worlds to solve the world’s problems. He wants to prepare the next generation with the superpower of virtuality by recruiting VR/AR pioneers as mentors to the youth as a sort of “Peace Corps” of Virtual Worlds.
How do we guide the next generation of talent and solutions?
According to Dr. Furness, we need to lead with our heart. As a pilot of a ship will use a Sextant to a destination on the horizon, Tom suggests we now need a “Nextant” to see the future. This instrument does not look to the horizon, but to the heart to guide us to what is next. We are in the fog of constant innovation at the shore crashing against the cliffs of future realities. That is a good thing, because we have been out in the sea of discovery for so long. Now we transform theories into solutions through a compassionate and collective heart of a society working in reality, virtuality and the creative imagination as one world. We now begin to see how virtual worlds can make a better future. Future solutions will use all senses, all disciplines, all generations and all sectors converging, cooperating, collaborating and fusing into a innovation culture. Innovation is now everybody’s job and we are better together. No longer will technology, venture capital or economic indicators be the only guides to show where we will go. The future will be realized through fulfilling visionary compassion of us all.
The Future of a Virtual World Society
As a challenge at the end of his keynote, Tom Furness challenges us all to see beyond the technology and to dream and inspire the next generation. He imagines we can inspire future generations as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King inspired himself. “If we can create a “Peace Corps” of Virtual Worlds where everybody can volunteer to participate and contribute to transform the next generation technology, technique and talent into solutions to today’s problems. Within this future technological playground of ideas and dreams can we more easily dream it, invent it, solve it together. Like the National Geographic Society has been exploring the physical world since the 1800’s, we can create a Virtual World Society to explore these future virtual frontiers.
You can join Tom with his emerging venture at the VirtualWorldSociety.org and share a vision, a challenge, an inspiration. It starts with you, sharing your thoughts in a short survey. This will help him define a roadmap with diverse input that is relevant as much to others as it is to himself.
The Virtual World Society will be starting by honoring the pioneers, legends, dreamers and doers living amongst us and sharing their story to inspire. With the “Nextant” Medallion these catalysts of passionate vision will be honored and share their excitement about the next generation together through virtual worlds and mixing realities. These will be the role models that can inspire all youth. Please share with him your nominations across all disciplines, sectors, cultures and generations who are living their dream in making a difference within our society of virtual worlds.
LAST POST: Making Creative Leaps with Mixed Reality
NEXT POST: Are You Ready for the Next Realities?
Stay tuned for additional innovation stories from Simiosys Real World Laboratories and the Virtual World Society. Other AWExpo 2015 presentations can be found on YouTube. My presentations include Storytelling with the Internet of Things, Unlocking Pathways in the Brain to Escape the Prison of the Mind, AWExpo TV Interview and the VR vs AR Great Debate.
To access more detailed published works on these subjects visit my profile on ResearchGate
- Interview: Tom Furness Shares His Vision for VR on Lateline - July 27, 2016
- The World Conspires to Achieve Your Dreams - July 27, 2016
- Virtual World Society awards the first Nextant Prize: - June 1, 2016
- Putting the “I” in Innovation - July 21, 2015
- New Frontiers of the Imagination - July 7, 2015