Many of you may remember that one of the speaker from Microsoft mentioned in his talk about a futuristic video of what Microsoft has accomplished. I believe I’ve found the video here.
A lot of you may know that I’m not a huge fan of Microsoft with XBOX being the only exception. I’ve got nothing against them. I’ve been Windows user from since Windows 95. My conversion to apple started when I bought my first iPod. I think the problem with Microsoft is not that they don’t make good product. It’s their vision of the “future” is not as far as user’s expectation, and other industry pioneers.
Let’s take this video for an example. One may argue that there are indeed many cool features in this video. But what I get from this video is that Microsoft imagines the future to be restricted to 2D interface, just like our PCs and tablets today. This is not a surprising at all. Man kind has suffered from this restriction since the first cave painting came out. Because of this, our 3D thinking and imagination have not been developed as good as 2D thinking and imagination. We are able to perceive the world in 3D, but the virtual world that we created in books, paintings, magazines, movies, TV shows and games only exist in 2D. I think now it’s time to fix this.
3D interface does exist in the area of augmented reality. The idea of this is using integration of real world and virtual world to provide more information to users. There are several practices of this technology that exist today, mostly for military application. For example tank drivers use this technology to measure the target area of attack, and fighter pilot use it to track enemy aircraft.
The obvious advantage of augmented reality to the 2D design that’s shown in this video is that we don’t need to turn everything into to a display. We only need one display per eye, two per person. We will not only be able to accomplish what’s shown in this video with a much cheaper cost, but also do more in 3D. Imagine you are an architect testing out the design of your building and you are standing at the location for your new building. With this technology, you will be able to integrate the 1:1 scale virtual model into the location to see the exact result. It’s way cooler than touching your fridge to check the weather.
However, there is one thing that’s stoping augmented reality to become a “thing”. That’s the issue of display. Intuitively, you want to get the display as close to your eye as possible. Some people are working on making display on contact lenses, and some are working on projecting images directly to the retina. There aren’t any huge progress on these yet. Making very thin touch screen display however is much more promising. This is probably the reason why Microsoft opts to choose this.
Although design-wise I think 3D interface with augmented reality I think is much better than what’s shown in this video, in the end it all comes to whichever that comes first and whichever is cheaper.