|The Tenth Annual Game Design Think Tank
Project Horseshoe 2015
The Impending Singularity and How to Use It
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There are a number of technologies that are appearing on the horizon that will have a disruptive effect on the process of delivering content and interacting with the end user. Some of these technologies include but are not limited to: 1) AR/VR systems, 2) Hyper-convergent systems, 3) Ubiquitous computing, 4) Artificial Intelligence and 5) Quantum Computing. These technologies disrupt the very basic infrastructure of computing, leading to a Singularity-type event in the field of computing and their application will have far reaching consequences.
A brief overview of each of the aforementioned technologies and how they will potentially disrupt the computational, environmental fabric will be provided.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) systems offer a truly immersive experience to the user, capable of totally subsuming the visual experience. In the case of AR, it would allow computational units to augment the information presented to the user or even replace some of the information visually available to the user. It extends the user agency from the cyber realm to the real world and vice versa. VR systems, on the other hand, offer a total replacement of the visual inputs to a user. Such total control over the visual cortex obviously presents dangerous circumstances to the user that must be carefully accounted for.
Hyper-converged systems are similar to a cloud based approach where the internal systems are all software defined and the edge of the cloud is pushed out to the user. This scalable approach provides unprecedented computing power to be applied to the problem of tracking the user’s progress through the cyber realm that they are navigating. The level of computing resources available allows the system to apply big data analytics to even the most rudimentary of actions that the user inputs into the system. Furthermore, the old problem of data analytics, that is, creating the patterns to be found in the data has recently been tackled by researchers at MIT, (http://news.mit.edu/2015/automating-big-data-analysis-1016 ) producing a machine that can find the patterns in the data. Although more work is needed in the field, this is clearly a step in automating a data acquisition apparatus.
Ubiquitous computing is yet another technology that will be available soon. This ties directly into the Internet of Things (IoT) and will provide near real time and constant surveillance of the user as well as extending the previously mentioned hyper-converged systems in terms of providing additional computing resources. This constant, accurate surveillance of the user coupled with big data analytics will create real time simulacra of the user that can be used to run internal simulations to determine the behavior of an individual user. While there are many concerns in regard to privacy data being obtained from the devices in the IoT and falling into the wrong hands, there doesn’t seem to be a concern about that data being sent to the “right hands” and what that implies.
Artificial Intelligence (AI), once relegated to computing backwaters, is making a resurgence as researchers have come to realize that a human-like intelligence is not needed to make intelligent decisions. The current incarnation of the Internet is actually being used to provide context for language interpretation and contextual decision making for a certain narrow band of subjects. IBM, Microsoft and Google are all currently vying to further develop this capability for their products (http://siliconangle.com/blog/2014/04/10/ai-developers-to-power-new-generation-of-context-driven-artificial-intelligence/ ). One can easily see the broader range application of this technique to create experts in particular fields, or indeed any field. Already, these techniques have yielded results where they consistently outperform their human counterparts.
Quantum computing, while still in its infancy, is already upending a number of fields, most notably cryptography. A quantum computer’s ability to examine all the states of a problem at once means that it will be possible to simulate all the outcomes in a single effort, providing the ultimate in efficiency and speed. Recent advances include creating an entangled Qubit at room temperature in silicon wafers (http://phys.org/news/2015-11-quantum-entanglement-room-temperature-semiconductor.html ) and the first examples of software being written for a quantum computer (http://www.21stcentech.com/quantum-computing-news-week/ ) even though quantum computers are still being tested.
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of computational technologies nor does it even begin to cover other diverse fields which have their own possible singularity event occurring, such as biology where breakthroughs in DNA computational structures have been occurring or physics with hard proof of new and exotic particles are being found in the LHC data.
As disruptive as the technologies that have been covered are, they also represent an opportunity that has hereto been unavailable to the experience designer. They offer the singular ability to weave an all-encompassing narrative into the attention space of a user. This attention space is defined by the time that a user devotes to a particular task, whether it is work, learning or entertainment. Due to the abundance of resources available, the experience that a user has in the attention space would be customized specifically for that user. This space can either be a single user experience or a multiuser experience; the customization provided would be optimal as borne out by the simulations of the experience and the data model that created the experience.
Custom ways of defining the experiences for the user would have to be created. Naturally, these customized tools would be used in a simulation to attempt to refine and offer the greatest utility to the designer.
Another application of these technologies is to create an improved Delphi method where one would be able to eliminate hubris, in the classical sense, from reporting an event. This would allow a more rapid, accurate convergence due to un-biased reporting events. The reporting event, say a corporate report on its environment emissions, would quickly be corroborated or disproved along with all the data to support the assertion, due to the ubiquity of sensors and data analysis available. A more observable truth, free from the foibles of a reporting entity, would be the end result. This would lead to an Isle of Logos being created in the reaches of cyberspace that could independently verify supportable truth. This would be a fundamental change in crowd sourcing efforts. Due to the greater transparency of data and data sources, coupled with the ability to simulate many events at once, a higher degree of confidence would be attributable to the data, which would feed other efforts on the Internet, providing inputs to AI functions.
As a result of this attention space technology, a digital assistant could also be created that would truly have your interests guiding its advice giving. This assistant would be able to run simulations to optimize a user’s efforts, be able to track down the true results of a user’s efforts and modify its plans to accommodate real world changes to the advice plan.
From a gaming/pedagogical point of view, there are just as many changes that would be occurring to the attention space of the user. We shall examine several possible uses for this technology.
By far the most evident one would be to use this technology to create either an AR or VR LARP. The VR version would possibly be the equivalent of the holy grail of simulation, that of a holodeck. However, an AR LARP could use real world locations and provide agents at the locations that would interact with an individual’s sensorium. There are, of course, issues with accessibility and scalability but given the possible state of the art at that time, it is reasonable to assume that those are probably solvable problems. Of course, the real sticking point in these simulations deals with the lack of haptic feedback systems. But even that may be a solvable problem in the near future. An experiment on rats, to give them additional senses (Atherton, Kelsey. “Brian Implants Let Rats See in Infrared – Infra-Rat”. Popular Science, October 16, 2015) have been successfully conducted. Similar maps of the human sensory apparatus exist and it should be possible to tap into these brain resources, thereby closing the feedback loop.
These gaming/learning systems would be self-adaptive, by drawing on the models of the user and simulations runs, to provide the maximum effect possible. Using the IoT, it would be able to determine a user’s actions in the real world and harnessing AR/VR, it would be able to fill a user’s sensorium to provide a complete experience.
An exciting possibility for VR would be for improving quality of life for the bedridden. It would provide them an environment that could alleviate the tedious hours as instead of being in a hospital room, they could find themselves in a hammock in Bora Bora. It could also be used to create a virtual “coffee shop” where family members who could not otherwise travel to the same locale could meet virtually in a fulfilling manner.
As an aside to immersion of the user in the experience, there would also be exoskeleton help available on a regular basis, as that would also benefit from the increased haptic feedback systems.
There are many more societal and personal changes that would occur, some grim such as the possible loss of privacy, some good such as the rise of reputation systems for individuals. Furthermore, as the human species integrates itself with changes that are occurring not only in computing but also biology, nanomachines, physics, etc., there will indeed be a singularity type era that could very well be the transition of Homo Sapien to Homo Technologicus.
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