by Fred Abler
You have to love StarTrek if only for the tech… phasers, transporters, tri-quarters, replicators, holodecks… You name it, Star Trek’nology was some cool kit!
In one of my favorite tech segments, Captain Picard orders “Earl Grey- HOT!!”, but the replicator keeps making a wet mess. It’s later discovered that the replicator software has a bug. It’s mindlessly replicating the tea before the teacup.
Obviously the show’s creators want us to know, that even in the future, computers still won’t have any common sense.
The all-time coolest tech (besides the transporter) was the HoloDeck ‘simulated reality’ facility on the Enterprise-D. Here again ‘the computer’ would run “programs” in ‘first person’ subjective mode, in which the person usually interacts with the program and it’s characters.
The Enterprise HoloDeck was typically used by some lonely, lost, or libidinous.. Starfleet officer in need of some virtual “shore leave” – to attend the Klingon tea ceremony, host a simulated BetaZed marriage, or even haunt jazz-filled bars on Ye’Old Earth.
The truly great thing about HoloDeck was it was immersive and interactive. You could safely spar with Klingon Batliffs, kanoodle with an old girlfriend, or talk to Spock’s father – all in a cathartic kind of waking dream.
And that’s the sucky thing about today’s HoloTek. It’s static. After taking three Excedrin 3Ds, and donning a bad-pair of Ray-Bans, we have to sit still for hours – getting poked-in-the-eye repeatedly by some moviemaker-cliche. Swords, Flying Dragons, etc. etc.
— Synesthesia —
3D movies may be immersive… but they’re hardly interactive. This creates real drag on suspension of disbelief needed to enjoy them. Not only do you have to willingly enter the filmmakers’ world – your autonomic nervous system has to come-along for the ride as well.
Yet interacting in 3D is a much more engaging experience. Why? Because your brain is actively providing the narrative, and is thus distracted. Plus, the haptic movement of your own body reinforces the experience. Theme parks are built on this very understanding.
Obviously today’s 3D Tek is still mostly concerned with optics, and far less so with the synesthetics (adding two senses or more together). But this is likely to change, and faster than we might think.
—-Holo ‘Decks’ —-
New 3D tablets will be commercially available next year. The LA Times recently test-drove a new 3D tablet from Qualcomm. It uses something called “Cell-Matrix Parallax Barrier Technology” to deliver a very convincing ‘glasses free’ 3D from a tablet.
At first I thought, what a great way to sell shoes! I bet Zappos is already working on this, but wait, that would be on the Kindle (groan). But after some deeper consideration, I believe the unique form-factor of tablets may do more for 3D than you would think.
Video 1 – Video of the “MasterImage 3D” tablet. NOTE: 2D video is incapable of showing 3D video, so this video is a pretty lame video. But, the saving grace is that even in 2D, you can see the tablet uses fairly stunning HiDef 2D video, which will save this device from being a gimmick.
—- 3D Tablets —-
Fig 1 – FormFonts 3D figure illustrating of one of our future subscribers – browsing our expansive 3D model library on a 3D Holo ‘Deck.
— Natural User Interfaces —
The Qualcomm 3D tablet requires no glasses, so it’s already miles ahead. But the real advantage of the tablet is that it is directly manipulated itself, both as a physical formfactor, as a “multi-touch” 2D slate, and, as a Holographic 3D object.
They key is that from any inertail frame, the user can manipulate the ‘objects’ directly. Because no indirect manipulation of a software menu in required, Direct Manipulation is a subset of what User Interface designers call – NUIs, or Natural User Interfaces.
NUI’s are incredibly easy-to-use because they design-away explicit constraints (which people seldom enjoy) and replace them with implicit constraints. Implicit constraints are hugely important because they’re not perceived as constratints, and complex interactions can be offloaded to muscle memory.
This gives the user transparency, and enables them to focus on their own design intent. Perhaps some day, well-designed interfaces will cease to be a cause celeb, and we’ll just be able to “do things”.
Fig 2 – Closeup of FormFonts’ future 3D Interface. The ‘Holo-Browser’. Concept by author. Illustration and 3D models by Alan Fraser.
Referencing the illustration above, it’s clear that 3D tablets will convincingly project NUIs into 3D space itself. The user can rotate the tablet itself to see ‘around’ the vehicle, or rotate the virtual car to see the undercarriage, or even touch the hologram to open the hood.
Collectively these haptic, interactive, and natural cues give the user the visceral experience of reality, and therefore the user is much more willing to suspend their disbelief. In fact, all the perceptual cues enforce this perception by cooperating synesthetically.
IN SHORT: NUIs are ready for their closeup… the Holo’Deck’.
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