Mark Zuckerberg gave us a taste of his vision of the future at the Facebook annual global developer conference F8, 2017. It involves seeing an augmented version of the world through the smartphone camera.
The smartphone camera, however, is only a placeholder until the big guns arrive.
In Zuckerberg’s words, “…we do not have the science or technology today to build the AR glasses that we want… We may in five years, or seven years, or something like that.”
The future that Facebook is preparing for is much grander and makes smartphone cameras (and smartphones itself) irrelevant.
Facebook’s ideal future is one where the world is most often experienced virtually augmented. This makes sense since Facebook’s business model is owning as much of the consumer time as possible, and the more irrelevant you make the physical world, the greater the available pool of consumer time.
In this future world (not too distant) the virtual will replace a lot of the physical (real) experiences and objects. Zuckerberg himself demonstrated how two people with AR glasses will play a game of chess with no chessboard.
This future world not only gives Facebook a share of increased consumer time, but it also opens up a share of the consumer’s commerce for the company. Why buy things (like TV) when you can just experience them virtually? Or, why buy office spaces when you can meet virtually every day?
It’s like this: If a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand pictures, an immersive simulation will be worth a thousand videos
In Facebook’s future world, where reality will be amorphous and immersive tools can manipulate us more easily, these problems will explode.
Fake news may have elected a world leader or two, but we are still in the early days of this journey. It isn’t just news. We increasingly get information fed to us where we are no longer sure if it is true or not, ranging from manipulated reviews to scientifically unproven (or worse, false) advice to rewritten history to outright false information designed maliciously.
What does this have to do with the future world of augmented and virtual reality though?
It’s like this: If a picture is worth a thousand words and a video is worth a thousand pictures, an immersive simulation will be worth a thousand videos. Or something like that. Not for no reason is virtual reality called empathy machine. It creates a strong feeling of experiencing the reality.
Now imagine such a powerful medium used to disseminate misinformation. It’s like putting a thermonuclear device in the hands of those who want to manipulate things.
Today, the beta allows developers to add simple virtual overlays, objects and even manipulate existing objects. Soon, it will get super-realistic with virtual objects that are indistinguishable from real ones and manipulations of existing reality in ways we cannot decipher.
‘We’re just a platform’ won’t cut it as an excuse.
Facebook, by virtue of pioneering a platform that enables the creation of such mixed realities, is setting up the ground where fiction and facts merge even further. While the conversations are always about the cool, fun things that can be achieved, the issues are never talked about until it is too late.
Read: Let’s go reality hopping — when Ctrl C-Ctrl V works in the real world
Today there is a proxy war going on between consumers on one side and publishers depending on advertising on the other. If internet is air, ads are its sooty pollutants — the result of capitalism gone wrong. Besides being annoying, ads have become creepy personal — thanks to platforms like Facebook for consolidating information and unleashing AI on it.
An augmented and virtual reality future, however, will unleash digital pollution of unprecedented proportions.
In F8 Zuckerberg demonstrated a large virtual banner sitting on a table with a coffee mug and also the addition of fake virtual objects to the scene. As innocuous as it looks, this is prime use-case for advertisers.
The surface of your fridge or a blank wall in your home could be a billboard for an advertiser. Facebook could be selling fridge-top views by the millions to advertisers
Facebook handed out Giroptic iO 360 cameras to nearly 4,000 people at the F8. Not for nothing. To truly build this immersive virtual world, Zuckerberg really needs users to generate them but the problem is that 360 cameras are still catching up (cost and capability wise).
While handing out 360 cameras is not the solution, we can be sure that Facebook is going to make sure that it helps create an ecosystem where consumers have a 360 camera in their hand capable of high resolution.
Now, rethink privacy.
It’s bad enough have millions of cameras pointing in a direction and capturing pictures, but soon we’ll have 3d-mapped videos and photos coming from millions. You are going to be part of virtual worlds, whether you like it or not, especially as resolutions gets larger and larger.
Layer on top Facebook’s increasing advances in facial and object recognition and soon there is literally no escaping the ‘eye’ so to speak.
It’s bad enough have millions of cameras pointing in a direction and capturing pictures, but soon we’ll have 3d-mapped videos and photos coming from millions