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InfoQ Homepage News QCon SF Keynote: The History and Future of Wearable Computing and Virtual Experience

QCon SF Keynote: The History and Future of Wearable Computing and Virtual Experience


Amber Case gave the opening keynote talk at QCon San Francisco.  She spoke about the history and current state of virtual reality interfaces, the challenges faced by augmented reality and how these can be overcome as people become more comfortable with the advances in technology. 

She started her talk examining the current state of Virtual Reality (VR) technology and lamented the fact that almost every demonstration of VR has people ride a virtual rolercoaster - an experience almost guaranteed to make the wearer feel ill.  She then showed examples of various VR applications including giant hamster balls, which are also very likely to make the operator feel ill.

Giant Hamster Ball VR Environment

She gave some very specific advice for VR developers on how to overcome many of the issues inherent in the current implementation:

  • Allow limited movement
  • Restrict to a small space
  • Add "teleportation" for rapidly changing the environment

She listed examples of the different types of games available in VR environments and played examples for the audience to see how far the technology has come and how it can be used.

She described the early work by Steve Mann and showed how that has influenced what can and is being done today, and how it impacts what will come in the future.

She then discussed the challenges of Augmented Reality (AR) and why Google Glass was not the resounding success the originators thought it would be.  Specific challenges that need to be overcome before Augmented Reality can become a successful technology include:

  • Bandwidth - AR needs a constant, high-bandwidth connection
  • Image recognition - this is currently not great in real-time
  • Objects and programming interfaces - these are being built and will come from the VR implementations

A very important consideration for AR adoption is the need for technology to be respectful of social norms.  To be successful, an innovation needs to build on products which are already socially acceptable - if the jump is too far the innovation will probably be rejected in the marketplace.

 She pointed out that VR technologies are starting to provide the socially acceptable environment on which future AR systems could be built, but these need to become more widely accepted first.  Building a VR environment is relatively easy today as many of the libraries and APIs have been written. 

She ended with some places to explore for more information:

She urged the audience to treat VR as a playground and use it to grow and learn.



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