Friday, November 26, 2004
Immersive Real-Time Virtual Presence
A time is likely to come when you will be recording video of everything you see (in fact, it is likely to come fairly soon).
At some point it is likely that a high resolution camera, coupled with high-bandwidth, portable Internet connections, and the always-on nature of your video recording will allow one or more people, with your permission, to see everything that your camera sees.
Adding conference call-like features to this would allow you to converse with one or more people who are seeing what your are seeing in real time.
An external microphone will probably be part of this setup, allowing those people who are tagging along with you to hear everything you hear.
Eventually, along will come setups that allow you to capture a full 360 degrees of your horizontal view, and a great degree of your vertical view. (This may come either by using a camera that captures 360 degrees at once, several cameras that each capture a part of the scene, or other, as yet unimagined or exotic technologies.)
Add to this enough microphones to capture sound in every direction as well.
And finally add to this image processing technology (probably on the recipient's end) that allows people to look around at anything that you could see, without you having to look at it. For example, you could be looking the sidewalk in front of you while one person is looking down and to the side and another is looking behind you and up. As you move your head around, or as the cameras move up and down with your walking motion, the image processing software would take the associated metadata stream of acceleration data, and adjust your viewers viewpoints so they remained steady.
As I was walking down a street last night, I though of how nice it would be to have some of my friends virtually there with me; able to look around, and hear what was going on, and engage in chatter the way we might if we were all actually there.
This morning, it occurred to me that there are many interesting uses for this capability. Take, for example, a military scenario, where a person is physically in a battle field (or, similarly, a police officer responding to a crime in progress). When this person is entering a dangerous area, one or more remote soldiers could connect in to the feed and look around from various vantage points. One virtual soldier could be looking behind the real soldier, covering the rear, while another is scanning for waypoints, while the real soldier focuses on the ground, and navigating obstacles. The three could converse in real time about events as they unfold (this is much like Extreme Programming's pairing concept), leveraging the capability of a small team, without the risk of having all team members present. Furthermore, certain specialists could hop from person to person as various situations warrant it, providing their expert information to an individual soldier, and reporting back their observations from having been on board of many different soldiers over a critical period of time.
My feeling is that this is an example of the types of Internet technologies that will begin to bring us together again, after decades of technologies (including the Internet itself) have driven us ever more apart.