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Oblong’s g-speak: Spatial Operating Environment

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Great demo of Oblong’s g-speak spatial operating environment, from SIGGRAPH 2012, via the Oblong web site:

My quick thoughts:

Obviously, interfaces like the SOE are rapidly collapsing the “mediated distance” between the human neuro-sensory system and virtual objects in virtual space. The implications are so huge here, not just because of Oblong’s SOE, but by all the other related, converging technologies and by the increasing power of the underlying data storage, processing and display infrastructure.

I don’t want to overstate this point, but here it is: this “disintermediation” of the man-machine interface may be a huge iceberg drifting along in the dark while the Titanic of our current web/tech ecosystem steams on its merry way. I see an accompanying collapse in metaphors: the metaphoric mediated space of the web is based on the gestalt of previous media (e.g., print, video), but the new metaphoric mediated space of immersive environments becomes more primal and material. We will no longer talk about pages and content; it may be more objects, textures, motion and space.

The difference seems trivial, as we’ve all played with immersive games and environments like Second Life, but the impact is likely to be seismic, something like the emergence of the web itself: existing business models, economic models, social models will all feel some pain. Individually and socially, this is also new epistemological and ontological territory: subtle changes will occur in what it means to know something and what it means to be something. What counts as knowledge? What is real?

Further, this has the potential to go beyond the venerable dream of virtual reality, as some alternate dimension. The inter-connectivity of a variety of new tech comes into play here: a disintermediation of the man-machine interface, and the re-representation of objects, motion and space, coupled with automation, 3D printing, nanotechnology and the “internet of things,” may not be an alternate reality, but rather a fused reality.

That is, there may be a fusion of virtual space with “real” space in which you could do something like create and run a virtual machine, or a distributed point of view, with the ability to act in “real” space. You might imagine an object, see it visualized in digital space, tweak it there, then realize it in material space. A new Cartesian formula: You think, therefore it is.

UI designers should be salivating at these developments, because UI designers will inevitably be called upon to craft the metaphors to make this possible future work.

Author: Eric Kingsbury

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