Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Robots vs. Total Immersion Virtual Reality

There is realistic thinking about the future of technology like 3D printing/fabricating (think Stephenson's the Diamond Age), stem cell research and energy breathroughs/efficiency improvements. There is fantasy thinking like robots and total immersion virtual reality (VR). What could be here in the next 20 years? With my economics background, I always look for the market and how an idea might win out because it is cheaper to make and easier to diffuse (VHS vs. Beta). Rarely does quality win out over cost, and Apple has made the last decade its mission to make their products be associated with cool so that their higher cost and quality (sometimes) products would be big sellers. Will we see a future of robots to make our lives easier and more fulfilling or will we see virtual reality immersion 'holodeck' type systems win out?

As I have typed randomly, I love the idea of robots (especially sex robots). I have read up on total immersion VR. The core comparison of these two systems is that robots would be an enhancement (potentially) to our current lives while VR would be an escape to a different reality. When we work, interact, are fed by or have sex with robots, it's still us as the prime actor and our homes as the setting. We might add robots to the mix that look like Brad Pitt or Grace Kelly 1953, but it's still us in our current bodies with our current surroundings. There is also the fear, unfounded for a few more decades, of robots becoming sentient and killing people. This might hurt robot development. Then there is the cost of each robot. Will specific robots be designed for specific functions or will there be an all in one? Manufacturers will have to recoup costs to produce a product.

It's obvious with alcohol, drug and food use that a lot of people like to escape their current realities. VR can be the next step. Developing computers fast enough to render physical sense manipulation is not too far away. Selling one unit can form the construct which users can play in or modify. Upgrades could be sold and different adventures. Think Total Recall, Matrix training sequences and even Inception. A great thing would be code writing barriers of entry being lower than robot design and manufacturing. There are many applications for the normal world, and a big source of demand would be training of highly dangerous occupations. An action adventure or mountain climbing sequence would be good clean fun. Maybe a violent Old West gun battle could help let some stress off, and maybe a harem program could prevent in the flesh adultery. Best of all, in a VR world, people could render themselves in their idealized fashion. The perfect you could be with Brad Pitt or Grace Kelly 1953. With the flick of a switch, people could escape not just their ho-hum existence, that they could enhance on their own with enough effort, but themselves.

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