The Future of Immersive Experiences

We live in an age of accelerating disruptive technologies, where the blistering pace of innovation drives change every instant in a dizzying array of technological breakthroughs that culminate in sometimes enriching, but certainly changing, our lives, some overtly and some in the background. One area that has seen significant advancement over the years is Human Computer Interaction (HCI) which has emerged as a central area of focus in delivering digitally deployed rich experiences.

A highly personalized immersive experience is not about engaging people in a single channel like web, mobile, voice or AR/VR. While each of these can be a rich stream of interaction by themselves, the future of immersive experience will rely on delivering multiple streams simultaneously, integrated into a single unified, holistic experience.

This would, as closely as possible, mimic real-life situations in which you could be listening to music, reading a book, researching prices or reviews of a product and planning your vacation at the same time. In these scenarios, your location is immaterial, whether at home, a brick and mortar store, a mall, a car (not while driving, of course), your workplace or the beach. The operational question becomes how marketing and technology can effectively craft the perfect personalized immersive experience for you.

The world of the near future will clearly be even richer than what we see with the naked eye, augmenting our physical view with rich digital sensory inputs. Imagine waking up to a view of the Serengeti Plains, or the waves crashing on Waikiki Beach within your living room. Children could explore the surface of mars from a classroom or the comfort of their rooms. Every wall becomes a portal into the world beyond, and large portions of that digital world already exist.

There are many open source projects that use crowdsourced image fragments to stitch together a virtual 3D map of the world, see as an example. NVidia® and Microsoft®, among other companies, have done pioneering work in holographic technology, Nvidia® for instance creating a full holodeck, driven by the visionary depiction in Star Trek, including many virtual worlds with incredibly detailed visualization.

It isn’t a stretch to extrapolate this to every inch of the world, the mountains, oceans, museums, buildings, parks and fields. We are moving toward a world experience that is a highly personalized, seamless blend of physical and virtual, creating a new dimension of experiences well beyond anything we see today.

The mode of our interactions can even change from today’s tactile, visual and sound cues to a direct capability to read and transmit thoughts and commands in this augmented reality. Some of this has already been shown to be possible in various research projects at MIT, such as technology with the ability to interpret brain waves, facilitating non-visual, non-verbal interaction between two humans.

With holographic and tactile technology, you could view, regardless of your physical location, a 3-dimensional model of any item you want to see or buy, be able to feel it’s surface, print it immediately from a 3-D printer, or get it delivered within hours from a hyperlocal location using a drone. Throughout all these activities, there is an AI agent ingesting your likes and dislikes, predicting in advance what you might want, making subliminal suggestions on a great outfit for the evening dinner, and reminding you to buy a bottle of your favorite wine for tomorrow’s outing.

Delivering this kind of experience, will require quantum computing that can process immense volumes of data quickly and simultaneously. Already there are technologies such as LIFI which will enable delivery of these immensely huge data streams at speeds much higher than what is in practice today. Will there be a situation where a hierarchy of machine learning agents including IoT devices, feeding into a deep neural network drive Artificial General Intelligence and eventually metacognition?

From immersive to life-changing experiences, robotics and mechatronics enable machines and exoskeletons to empower physically and geo-constrained people to engage in experiences that otherwise might not be possible. Wearables today might consist of augmented glasses or prosthetics, but near-term advances in nanotechnology and physical augmentation technologies will enable these capabilities to be directly embedded into the human body, creating an inflection point in the timeline of homo sapiens that will inherently and irrecoverably change our future development and life experience.

Our future is going to be a complex interactive mesh that stems from the confluence of intelligent AI, augmented and virtual worlds, instant product availability via 3D printing and drones, immersive holographic experiences, body augmentation and nanotechnology, and all driven by the immense power of quantum computing. As AI and Blockchain assume the position of foundational layers across the entire digital ecosystem, we expect to see highly complex, composite experiences delivered in paid, experience-as-a-service models.

As enthralling as all this might appear, there are serious implications for human safety, privacy and security. More and more data depicting our digital presence, activities, and personal characteristics is being captured and sold every day. This will only intensify as companies strive to drive new revenue streams by delivering ever more complex and personalized immersive experiences. 

Exciting, and challenging, events await us as we continue to create more complex human-computer interaction. I for one envision a very exciting future. What does the future look like to you?