I, like everyone else, have seen Avatar. It is quite a treat to watch. What interests me in the posted video is the use of the SIMUL-CAM, an interesting piece of technology that combines live action and computer generated footage. James Cameron has created a real-time augmented reality experience, blending the real and the surreal to view his “complete” world. I believe it is only a matter of time before SIMUL-CAM technology is available for public consumption. Once that day has come, I can imagine artists and educators like myself using this technology to meld Virtual World projects with real world experiences, bringing us one step closer to an interfaceless interface.
A day after initially writing this entry, CNET blogger Daniel Terdiman posted on his blog Geek Gestalt on the effect of Avatar’s technological innovations on Virtual Worlds. In his words “Today’s virtual worlds have attracted millions of users, significant venture capital and sometimes impressive revenues. But some experts think it’s a no-brainer that augmented reality tools like Cameron used to turn “Avatar” into history’s highest-grossing film could soon be the core of what millions of people experience in 3D virtual worlds that until now, we’ve only been able to dream about.” Though augmented reality tools have yet to find their way into Virtual World experiences, the vision of this landscape has been around for years.
In his 2007 novel Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge posits a not-too-distant future in which individuals view an augmented world through contact lenses and haptics woven into the fibers of their clothing. Kids play mixed reality games on a park hill where they view obstacles and characters that are entirely virtual. Those who are “wearing” can communicate through silent messaging (SMING) where text messages pop-up in your field of view.
While making augmented reality tools ubiquitous and seamless might be out of our initial grasp for the time being, the SIMUL-CAM technology used in Avatar might find its way into mainstream Virtual Worlds interaction sooner than you might think.