After announcing earlier this week that it had acquired a startup that monitors thoughts for use in controlling digital devices, Facebook Wednesday discussed the future of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).
“VR certainly has the same long term potential as the personal computer,” Facebook Reality Lab (FRL) lead Michael Abrash said, according to Engadget. “In fact, I believe that it will ultimately become the most powerful creative and collaborative environment that has ever existed.”
According to the report, the main direction of Facebook’s VR and AR technologies is to create the sense that one is sharing a communal space in a virtual world. In other words, while one can be completely isolated in the real world, he or she can be sharing a space in the digital world with digital companions.
For such a digital world to be possible, Facebook stressed the importance of its digital people, called Avatars, to have as many human characteristics as possible.
“Abrash also spoke to the importance of conveying emotion in creating social presence and, to that end, his lab is working on making photo-realistic virtual faces for their Codec Avatars,” Engadget said.
The worrying aspect of such technology is the seeming lack of inquisitiveness on behalf of its creators about the effects that it will have on humanity. There was a time when an implied understanding existed in Silicon Valley – that technology would be used for the good of human beings. But in a perfect metaphor for our times, Facebook’s fellow tech giant Google dropped its original slogan “Don’t Be Evil” from its manifest in 2018. Now the most advanced private tech companies on earth are building tools that could very well separate humans from physical contact with other humans.
To wit, the company recognized that VR and AR technology with realistic, human-like avatars is worthless without a space for those avatars to exist within, and they’re working on overcoming that challenge, too.
Engadget said that Facebook “has developed a prototype system capable of capturing high-fidelity 3D scans of interior environments.”
“Through a combination of a high-accuracy depth capture system, state-of-the-art simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology, a cutting-edge camera rig, and a dense reconstruction system, we’re able to achieve a level of fidelity that’s unprecedented in VR,” Facebook said in a press release.
Facebook wants users to be able to “hang out virtually in familiar, real-world spaces,” whether it be at the local park, at a popular tourist attraction, or simply in a typical living room.
Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it spent half a billion dollars to purchase a New York based startup called CTRL-Labs, which is developing technology to monitor human thought. The end goal of that project is to allow humans to control smart devices with their minds. Currently, applications have the ability to be controlled with physical movement, like shaking an iPhone. CTRL-Labs, now owned by Facebook, wants to skip the physical action, and let the mental action do the work.
The obvious implication is the potential for mind control.
Is mentally intrusive technology, or technology that drives human beings apart actually a net benefit to our exists? The answer to this question remains unknown, but it seems like we should at least be having the discussion.