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March 19, 2019

A Window into ‘Mirrorworld’

By Steven Gollmer

An article in Wired magazine recently reminded me of the artificial world in which we live.  The article is titled “AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform – Call it Mirrorworld” and can be found at https://www.wired.com/story/mirrorworld-ar-next-big-tech-platform/.  Mirrorworld is seen as possibly the next technological marvel of our age.  Imagine every item in your life having a digital footprint, which can be accessed through augmented reality (AR) goggles, massive databases, high speed internet connections and the appropriate software.

This is not the same as the world envisioned in Ready, Player One written by Ernest Cline, where one experiences a virtual world with a haptic suit and virtual reality (VR) goggles.  It is more like Pokéman Go on steroids.  Instead of looking for virtual monsters with your phone display, you can see them with AR goggles, superimposed over the ‘real’ world.  However, the purpose of Mirrorworld is not just fun and games.  While walking down a street, you see the address of homes virtually displayed in your field of view.  Directions to your destination appear as arrows or colored lines on the pavement in front of you.  If repairing your car, you see the screws and bolts to be removed highlighted in green while audio instructions step you through the process.  (This is much more effective than watching YouTube videos multiple times to get the instructions correct.)

In order for this world to exist virtual replicas of every physical object must be modeled with a draftsman’s level of detail.  Not only will the exterior of your home be rendered in 3D, making Google Earth’s street view more realistic; but the interior floorplans, electrical wiring and plumbing will be visible through the walls and floors if the proper security access is available.  Logging all of this data will be a Herculean task unless it can be assisted by users of the AR equipment.  Embedded cameras with GPS positioning could transmit the user’s view in real-time and allow databases to be updated once all objects in the scene have been identified by image-recognition software.  A comprehensive digital mirror of our world would improve troubleshooting of problems, enhance security and allow robotic vehicles to more seamlessly interact with us.

Although privacy was cited as a significant problem, the Wired article concludes with the statement, “It will be humanity’s greatest achievement, creating new levels of wealth, new social problems, and uncountable opportunities for billions of people.”  The prospects are alluring and the implications are sobering.  Not only are there concerns about personal freedom and privacy, but there is the prospect of a fundamental shift in society.  As information becomes immediately available in our daily experience, the necessity to memorize and learn changes.  Just as the introduction of GPS navigation changed how we travel, Mirrorworld will change how we interact with the world around us.  Will this bonanza of data make us more appreciative of the ‘real’ world or more dependent on the virtual?

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