Window into Virtual Worlds
By Nick Calvero
One day the cell phones we carry around will become "visionaires" - devices that augment reality. Beyond a navigational tool, they will tell us things about the world around us that are not readily apparent. See a building that looks interesting? Point at it and learn its history, the name of the architect, and whether any apartments are free. As these devices develop, another strain of technology is catching on: virtual worlds. Already, Viacom has created a virtual replica of the Lower East Side. A user can listen to music at Pianos, meet fellow hipsters on the street, and buy clothes from American Apparel without leaving their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Provided that these virtual worlds continue to develop, it is conceivable that one day anyone in the world could visit New York without leaving their computer. This virtual city could be continuously updated by residents taking pictures with their cell phone cameras or visionaires. (For this to work, pictures would have to encode the GPS coordinates, angle of the camera, shot, etc., so that algorithms could mash them together, creating composite images of the city.) So, as you walk down the street, a businessman in Shanghai, a 12-year girl in Bonn, and a professor in Honolulu could also be "walking" down the street (or flying). A city behind a city? A city derived from a city? It would then be a civic duty to bridge these two worlds. Screens should be put up at points around around both the real and virtual cities. The screens will act like windows into the other world: virtual users can see real foot traffic, and people actually making their way to a destination the old-fashioned way can see crowds of virtual users streaming down the street. As the world diverges, steps should be taken to keep them linked together.
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