Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Virtual UX

Trying to get a jump on the competition for the next couple of decades, I read Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, with an eye on the future of user experience design. Given his mind-bending projections, what might we UXCentrists be doing in the next ten, twenty and thirty years?

While the question is outside the lines of Singularity, Kurzweil gives a tantalizing clue:
"Virtual reality environment designer" will be a new job description and a new art form.
While Google didn't find any job listings for "virtual reality environment designer", both the University of Colorado at Denver and Eastern Oregon University already list it as a career choice. The less restrictive "virtual reality designer" yielded 412 hits on Google. If the future isn't yet now, it's not far away.

A little context will help clarify what Kurzweil might mean by "virtual reality environment designer." Computers at the beginning of the next decade will be truly ubiquitous, he says, woven, embedded and enmeshed in the physical environment around us. "These resources will provide high-resolution, full-immersion visual-auditory virtual reality at any time. We will also have augmented reality with displays overlaying the real world to provide real-time guidance and explanation"—including mapping, real-time translations and virtual assistants.

By 2030, "[n]anobot technology will provide fully-immersive, totally convincing virtual reality," Kurzweil continues. Nanobots positioned near "every interneuronal connection coming from our senses" will be able to intercept and replace signals from our actual senses and "replace them with those that would be appropriate for the virtual environment... Our brains will experience these signals as if they came from our physical bodies." He continues,
The Web will provide a panoply of virtual environments to explore. Some will be re-creations of real places; other will be fanciful environments that have no counterpart in the physical world... We will be able to visit these virtual places and have any kind of interaction with other real, as well as simulated, people (of course, ultimately there won't be a clear distinction between the two), ranging from business negotiations to sensual encounters.
Utlimately, says Kurzweil, "As we enter the 2030s there won't be clear distinctions between human and machines, between real and virtual reality, or between work and play."

One thing is certain: This spells the end for wireframes! Creating complete worlds will require new tools, new metaphors, new ways of thinking. I'll muse about these in upcoming posts.


Blogger Dan McGowan said...

Ah, but will there still be love?

8:45 PM  

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