Flying humans, powered by collaboration

Amazing 3D immersion technology from IDEO Labs on Vimeo.

Whatever your fantasy, the iCube’s 3D immersion technology shows that a breathtaking simulation isn’t far way. It’s the result of a powerful collaboration between IDEO and EON Reality with serious implications for business and recreation.

The technology is deceptively simple. You wear polarized 3-D glasses (just like in the cinema) with small markers that stick out from the frames to tell infrared cameras the precise position of your eyes. From those positions, stereo images for each projector are calculated and rendered in real time to amazing effect.

Like any technology, it won’t be before there’s a version in our homes that costs less with greater sophistication. Instead of arcade rooms in the homes of the rich and famous, we’ll have immersion cubes where we play inside video games, travel overseas without packing, and test drive products as many times as we want. It simply requires three blank walls, a little equipment and almost no training.

How could a real world sales pitch compete with such a fully immersive experience? Not only does it bring a product and brand to life in a visceral way that wasn’t possible before, but the very sales experience has a halo effect on the product. Maybe, one day soon, the “try” will be even more exciting than the “buy”?

What implications does it have for bricks and mortar stores when product immersions take place right in your home? Perhaps accompanied by a virtual sales assistant that can execute the transaction then and there? What about the travel industry, airlines and cruise ships? What percentage of shopping would become virtually (sorry) unnecessary? And what cost will we incur in terms of our needs for direct human contact in our lives? Or if not us, then for the next generation that grows up knowing little else?

The power of technology can be equally inspiring and sobering. Part of the wonder of flying is its impossibility. Its simulation comes at a hefty price if it ushers in an age where technology claims even more of our human contact. In a world of virtual Second Life, Facebook friends and Twitter conversations, there’s something to be said for the minimum level of human contact to generate empathy, compassion and concern for each other. One needs only to look at how technology has increasingly dehumanized war and its effects on veterans, or rehab centers for teenage video game addicts around the globe, to know that a life overrun by simulation is often less worth living. As with all things, it’s a balance. One, I suspect, we may find, yet again, by overstepping.

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