Will Virtual Reality Make Privacy Obsolete?
File that to the side as the status quo. Then consider emerging technologies such as the Oculus Rift, a new headset which appears to deliver on the long coveted dream of virtual reality. Writing for IGN, Richard Wordsworth summarizes the potential of the Rift:
What we're really talking about with the Rift is the invention of The Matrix, the opening up of new possibilities for everything you can do with your eyes without leaving your seat. And no-one's even going to stick a metal spike into your brain.
While the device has obvious gaming applications, its potential uses outside gaming seem limited only by the imagination. Wordsworth elaborates:
Siciliano Viglieri's Rift-compatible version of Street View does exactly what you'd expect: it takes Google's massive, globe-spanning database of panoramic snapshots and puts the user in the middle, letting them 'walk' down the Champs Elysees, or stand outside their house, peering into their own drawing room. With the Rift headset, however, there's none of that cumbersome clicking and dragging - just warping to a location and having a look around.
As you'd expect with such nascent technology, Siciliano Viglieri's prototype for next-gen Street View isn't quite teleportation yet. Unavoidably, Street View still does that whoosh-ing from one point to another, built as each location is from a composition of still photographs. There are also teething issues with the controls, which he intends to fix by adding gamepad support ("Finding the mouse or the keyboard with the Oculus Rift on your face is not an easy task!" he says).
But Siciliano Viglieri fully expects Google to offer official support to the Rift in time, adding more detail and greater depth. And with Google ironing out the issues, who knows what's next? Perhaps that 'whoosh' is actually the first step toward proper virtual tourism. Have an hour-long lunch break to kill? Strap on a Rift and go for a paddle on the Great Barrier Reef. Nose around a Mayan temple. Turn up the air-con and zip over to Antarctica. It's your world, space ranger.
Pair that with bone-conducting technology like that which Sky Deutschland has considered using to beam audio advertisements directly into commuters skulls and you have the potential to create a virtual world which effectively immerses the user. The convergence of these technologies will enable people to transport themselves anywhere real or imagined.