Star Trek Tech

 

Back in 2006 I attended the Star Trek exhibition at the London Science Museum (here’s a photo of part of the exhibit).

It wasn’t just some nerdy event (!) but also a way of demonstrating how far we have come in meeting the challenges of creating the kind of Science Fiction tech that we see in Star Trek. At the time it was pretty impressive, from the medical through to communication and analysis tech we had come a long way. However the world has moved forward since then obeying Moores Law quite accurately.

I was therefore interested last week to see that they now invented a ‘cloaking device’  – the first step on the path to a 3-D invisibility cloak. Cool. So here are some others…

Start Trek                                                    Equivalent

1. “Phaser to Stun”                                        Tazer

2. “Phaser to Kill”                                           Laser guided weapons

3. “Communicator”                                       Mobile phone

4. “Tricorder”                                                  Mobile Phone or PDA

                                     (possibly with Sciencescope attachments)

5. “Medical Tricorder”                                 MRI scanner

6. Holodeck                                              3-D holographic projection

                            (immersion suits, immersive VR environments)

7. Replicator                                                   Replicator (3-D) Printers

8. Universal Translater                               iPhone app

                                                            or Phraselator (U.S. Military tech)

9. Scalpel Free surgery                               Laser surgery

10. Jordy’s visor                                            digital cameras and

                                                           tongue devices help blind see.

11. Communicator earpiece                      Bluetooth headset

12. Force Field                                                Plasma bubble

We live now in the world inspired by the Science Fiction depicted in the early Star Trek. I hope however that as we ‘boldly go’ forward we continue to explore the macro as well as the micro and to be pushing outwards as well as exploring the inward workings of our world. I worry that we’re using technology as a crutch for everyday living rather than as tools to project us to new and rewarding (off world?) experiences.

Death Through Immersion

I was both fascinated and appalled last weekend when I read about the South Korean couple who let their own three month old child starve to death whilst they were obsessed with rearing a ‘virtual child’ in the SecondLife-style game Pruis online.

This was covered in a number of newspapers but a couple of good articles are the Telegraph and BBC News

I haven’t heard of anything exactly like this occurring before although there have been cases of individuals letting a child die in favour of some addiction (internet or otherwise). Perhaps someone can correct me and show that it’s more common than I imagine – and that would be even more disturbing.

I’m currently part of the supervisory team of Jo Iacovides who is doing a PhD in the area of engagement and informal learning (through games). We regularly have discussions about the level of immersion and the increasing depth of reward and interaction required by gamers. Heavy Rain for example takes gaming in a different direction. I read a good article in the Independent interviewing David Cage the creator of Heavy Rain. He’s quite weird and I’m not sure I totally agree with his future of gaming but you can’t deny that he is pushing boundaries.

I do start to wonder though about how far immersive gaming is taking us and where it will lead. There are already immersion suits for gamers and anyone who has tried the 3D Gaming experience will know that it does lead to a deeper sense of ‘being there’ – couple that with a richer set of ‘rules’ and characters with humanistic characteristics then add a sense of responsibility and reward – Now we start getting to towards the truely scarey SciFi Virtual Reality future as predicted by  Tad Williams “Otherworld” series or “Better Than Life”, “Matrix” et al.

When games and the virtual world gets to be more interesting and rewarding than the real world then VR will just be another type of psychoactive drug, a wonderful one in which people have a greater level of environmental choice than with a hallucinogenic and this will make it very powerful and dangerous. If you think I’m being fantastical here then read this Virtual World article  from 2008 and judge for yourself. I believe this Korean couple had a number of other things outside the game which influenced their behaviour but none the less it continues to make me uncomfortable.

We truly live in interesting times however I hope we’re going to be responsible about what we create for the next generation.