Virtually certain to be a heading for a new tech near future

You know that feeling when you’re looking to buy a new car, decide on your favourite model, and then seem to keep seeing them everywhere? I’ve had a similar experience this week with the vision of the augmented virtual world of the future, or near future it seems.

In the same way we look back on the lives of previous generations and struggle to comprehend how they managed to survive without the comforts of today – a Tudor diet; pre-Victorian sanitation; two-channel TV of the 1960s – who knows what will stop social historians of the next 50-200 years dead in their tracks in a cold sweat pondering just how we managed to get by in the first couple of decades of the 21st Century?

I was set on my way by a harmless wander through a compelling essay by Yuval Harari in the New Statesman, almost choking on my morning coffee at the prospect of a bioengineered, corporate-led, immortality-chasing, philosophical void looming within the lifetimes on my children. Do Google really have a sub-company “whose stated mission is to solve death”? Is life really to become a cyborg-dominated set of algorithms to be processed in the most efficient order possible? I’m pretty sure that’s not what Plato had in mind conceptualising the good life; even David Cameron isn’t preaching that one.

Suitably concerned and alert to the possible dangers ahead, I’ve stumbled my way through endless red flags all week.

I’m certainly no technophobe, so news that virtual reality broadcasting is moving forward apace came as no surprise, with FOX Sports again dipping their toe in the pond of future opportunity with a NextVR tie-up to bring a US Open experience to VIPs who prefer to strap on a headset and sip champagne rather than see just how bad the greens really are at Chambers Bay first hand.

It’s kind of inevitable, and there’s no doubt a place for a wider rollout of the technology beyond the confines of hospitality tents. Content owners, and that’s just as much sports events, federations and teams themselves as well as their broadcast partners, will continue to experiment. I’ve felt no compelling need to get 3D TV, but HD was a natural progression. And if BBC really manages 4K Ultra HD broadcasts as standard by next year as claimed, then it’ll lead me and plenty of others into higher home standards through the next cycle of equipment upgrades, when I find a good enough excuse to buy a new TV as I did to get the HD-ready Samsung just in time for England’s glorious 2010 World Cup campaign.

Stick that alongside a gaming-driven parallel development thrust and it’s hard not to imagine a greater proliferation of devices finding their way onto our heads, in a way that Google Glass, er, didn’t.

There was a place for some innovation on the GG front; we tried it with some small-screen success during my time at ECB to give a different perspective on the world of cricketers during various different training regimes.

But you never felt it was ever going to become mainstream technology. There’s been plenty showcased at the Augmented World Expo in Silicon Valley and the Imagine Festival in Milton Keynes to suggest some actual bonafide real world uses of future world technology just around the corner, driven by business efficiencies rather than alien-zapping projections.

And looking past the sell of this CastAR promo, it does look kind of cool in a yes-I’d-have-a-go-at-that way, even if it’s not up there yet with your iPad or Wii in terms of no-brainer tech you add to your household gadgets list.

But no sooner have you got your head around that, or it around your head, then you get a VR application that projects you into a less comfortable space. Do I really want to contemplate virtual reality news production?

Whatever the news event, however gruesome, you catch up by sticking yourself in the time and place to experience it first hand. Call me old school, and I am, with a CV that dates back into using a typewriter to produce news items for good old fashioned newspapers, but this one leaves me uncomfortable.

the kids who are playing Minecraft now are so comfortable with that digital environment. And they’re gonna grow up very soon and they’re gonna expect a place that they can go to that is a virtual experience

Suppose it’s inevitable. If Gartner’s prediction of 25 million head mounted displays sold by 2018, then people will be falling over themselves to produce content for them.

That’ll produce opportunities for sports and media that goes far beyond corporate hospitality, helping bring live experiences into your living room in a way that will no doubt drive extended revenues direct from fans and extra rights fees from increasingly challenged broadcast partners. But VR will start to challenge actual reality, when pitchside access and VR camera angles seem more appetising to the next generation of armchair fan than actually, physically making the effort to be there.

Anyway, what’s so scary about all of that? Ok, probably nothing. No different to being presented with the totally immersive world of social media we have now back in 1985 and scoffing loudly.

But BBC-led mind-control experiments on choosing what you watch on TV or listen to on your car radio. Hmm. No problem with BBC doing that. But not sure what Yuval Harari would make of it.

And then you find yourself browsing upon nice bits of content aggregation such as

7 times tech leaders warned us that robots will kill us all

on Techworld, and pondering just where it’s all going to lead us over the next 5-10 let alone 15-25 years?

Harare talks about the “decoupling of intelligence from consciousness” at the heart of the economically-driven Google/Apple/IBM etc search for business prowess that could render human intelligence sub-ordinate to artificially non-conscious computing power.

If you’re only even slightly concerned about the ambitions and moral flexibilities of global corporations, then it’s a sobering thought.

But then that’s probably what the Tudors thought when presented with a world without Swan Surprise on the menu.

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