I know you've done some research into the limits of what humans can see graphically. We were talking earlier about this idea that, to paraphrase a bit, technology will become an extension of yourself and your body; it will be all around you, happening everywhere in your world, with gestures and cameras and whatnot. Have you thought at all about the ramifications of that on the human body, being inundated with all of these screens and waves and things all of the time?
TS: It's hard to say. I think it's a simplification in a lot of ways, because I think right now we are surrounded by a whole lot of separate display devices, and most of them are really crappy. When I'm at my iPad, that's an awesome experience; but then I go to my Windows XP-based computer, and that's a pretty slow and clunky experience; and then I go to my car's navigation system -- I'm sorry, but General Motors makes lousy navigation systems. I like the idea of all of those disparate display devices just going away and being replaced with this pervasive display overlaid on top of the world that's with you everywhere. It really enables a much greater degree of polish than all of these separate experiences.
But it also enables you to be advertised to against your will, potentially.
TS: I don't think anybody would ever put up with a device like that. If Google tries to sell you these glasses that are always popping up ads in your face, they can go to hell!
But people do kind of put up with it. On the plane over here to Taiwan, you have to sit through some advertisements; they're mandatory. Or, in a cab, they're trying to sell you stuff, but you already paid money! I could foresee it happening.
TS: You're right. It's a brave new world.
I've been reading lots of Kurt Vonnegut lately, too, so...
TS: If you're scared about the information Facebook collects, for example, then just imagine what happens when there's a company that's basically beaming a live feed of what you see all day, every day, and all of your daily interactions.
Absolutely. It's kind of horrifying. But, yeah, it is interesting to think about what a game would be in that kind of environment. Does it become a Second Life kind of thing but finally done well, where you are a superhero flying through this universe and you're actually moving around in the real world? I don't know!
TS: Yeah, we could totally go into those sorts of games. Another neat thing is the realization that, if you have a device like that that you are always wearing, then any game scenario continues to work, but you don't need a display to make it work. You could use that device to project a TV to a particular place in your house, and it would work and look just like a real TV. So you could continue to use it in legacy scenarios. Going beyond that, it's impossible to predict. The only way to figure that out is to have a million smart developers each out trying new ideas, most of them failing, but finding a few things that work.
I feel like, for core games, the idea of a virtual controller is not that compelling. A core Kinect game is maybe possible, but the precision required is not really there. But in that kind of a scenario, I just have this vision of a dude that has a wireless controller that's snapped to his belt, so if he wants to play something he can just...
TS: I agree. The best game controllers and best devices in general don't only sense your motion, but also provide tactile feedback in response to your motion. That's why a mouse is so satisfying; you're moving your hand, and your hand has an enormous amount of precision, so as you move your hand you're also feeling the motion.
You want to see a high-bandwidth connection between your brain and the device. That just doesn't exist. Even with a touchscreen, you have this great ability to touch what's on the screen, but you can't feel key boundaries on your virtual keyboard. When you have a game that has a little joystick controller on-screen, you don't have any touch response there. Those are lousy.
If all you're doing with a Kinect-type of device is putting in some virtual input device, it theoretically works just as well, but if you can't feel it then it's just going to fail. I don't know what the ultimate answer to that is. Maybe there will be some advances in tactile feedback. Ideally, you want a touch device that can impart a force on you with some sort of dynamic feel. I can imagine a virtual keyboard having the feel of a keyboard through some sort of mechanism like that, but that's been largely unexplored so far.
While that does seem like it would be the solution, again, it's a little scary to me. What are those impulses going to do to me? How are they going to alter my sense of touch in general, using them long-term?
TS: Yeah. I have the same complaint with cell phones that fry your brain. That's a real problem; after I talk on my cellphone for a long period of time, I definitely feel some --
Your ear is hot.
TS: It feels a little like I drank a beer or something. It's definitely doing something bad to you there.
That's the kind of thing I was getting at before. You're mostly talking about a unified device, but if the world has all of these things it can beam at you, what's going to happen? We're going to turn into mutants or something.
TS: Well, we're already well along that path if you look at the way we live our lives. The typical person with an iPhone has a completely different view of what's out there in the world and how to navigate through it. You can't get lost anymore if you have a GPS, and you can't forget anything because you can just look it up online on Google. It's a different world.
I keep getting reminded of what the world used to be like when I come to other countries because I can't afford a smartphone that will work everywhere. At one point, when I was sending a text message on a feature phone, I tried to touch the screen to move the cursor, and of course that doesn't work because it's just a screen. I have to go around looking for specific restaurants because I'm a vegetarian, but I don't speak the language; so I have to write down instructions for myself and leave the place where my internet is. Then I'm just around with no backup. It's really made me realize how reliant on this technology I am.
TS: Yeah, it's crazy. At the rate things are advancing, we're going to have to explain to our grandkids what a book was! I mean that seriously!