- What is Spatial Computing?
- Uses of spatial computing
- Challenges spatial computing can help overcome
- How is this different from the metaverse?
- Future Applications
- Will spatial computing bring us closer to the natural world?
- Types of SC
- What problems does spatial computing bring?
Podcast: The Future of
Episode: The Future of Spatial Computing
What is Spatial Computing?
- Spatial computing is when anything non-human and a machine interact with space in the real world and interacting with the space as a human would.
Human interaction with a machine in which the machine retains and manipulates references in real objects in spaces. Simon Greenwald, Spatial Computing, 2003
- It is when intelligent edge devices can give us more context about our surroundings and provides another layer of information about the real world.
- Examples from fiction:
- The Quantum Thief
- Minority Report
- These ‘locations,’ when digital, are also permanent and immobile. They don’t travel with our device; it discovers them when it sees them.
- Inputs for spatial computing:
- Physical - think of a humanoid robot like a Terminator.
- Digital - in the future, inputs will be delivered primarily by eye movement and will always have a hands-free component. For now, there’s input with hand movements.
- Outputs for spatial computing:
- Haptic - giving feedback on the skin.
- Ultrasound - also gives a sensation like a touch.
- Smell - small cartridges that release scents.
- It will start to feel natural when:
- The interfaces are convenient, small, and not bulky.
- But the smaller the interface (headset), the less capability it has.
- There is a service out that offloads the computations to the cloud and thus lightens the headsets.
Uses of spatial computing
- One use is domain-specific assistants that can get looped in from remote locations.
- Training on a specific machine or tool in 3D and never needing to touch the device until you get to the job. The training could have haptic feedback.
- Space exploration is using it to check the bolts on launch capsules. It has reduced the time from an entire shift to 45 minutes.
- Games. Pokemon Go and so on.
Challenges spatial computing can help overcome
- It has the chance to be more inclusive if we design it with safety and security in mind.
- The increased amount of information will allow us to break down the echo chambers and build better connections with our neighbors.
- It can help augment human capability in all kinds of situations, including emergencies.
- It can change human behavior. Taking climate change as an example, it could allow us to see what buildings or parts of the building are more energy efficient. Then we would tailor giving our business to those places with better efficiency.
- It can bring places to people instead of transporting people to places. Once again, with climate change, travel is a contributor to the problem.
How is this different from the metaverse?
- They didn’t like the proposal from Facebook on what the metaverse is.
- They think it’s a technical continuation of the internet and simply connecting reality with the digital.
- Adopting spatial computing depends on how comfortable the devices are if the infrastructure can respond with low latency.
- If that happens, we might expect self-aware avatars to interact with us digitally.
- In addition, screen size will not limit the ability to get answers to the top 5-10 results because of the space limitations on the screen. We will reach millions of results.
- The office will have wall-sized holographic displays in conference rooms that allow conferences with virtual participants with no headsets. Currently, there are 20-inch holographic displays.
- Healthcare is already seeing surgeries performed with projected 3D images onto patients. These include feedback from MRIs and CAT scans.
- Another application is immersive telemedicine to serve isolated communities.
- It could help virtually transport experts to the area to help diagnose, triage, decision-making, and more during emergencies.
- Education is stuck in the Victorian era. Most initiatives today are simply taking the old Victorian model and digitizing it. Education needs to be re-invented. Eventually, teachers will be augmented or replaced with AI in a virtual space part of the time.
Will spatial computing bring us closer to the natural world?
- The trend is that people always want to be closer to the information. From weekly mass to daily newspaper to the radio and on to the internet.
- As technology advances, it’s going to get harder to disconnect because the device will be more and more part of you. We are progressing from a phone you can leave behind to an implant you are not physically separate.
- But it will drive the information to be consumed more human-centric.
Types of SC
- Pass-through is where the real world is digitized and virtual objects are added to or subtracted from it. Most likely, this is the technology that will win out.
- See-through has a lens you can see to see the natural world and virtual objects added to it. With this version, it is harder to remove objects (SL: I don’t think that’s true.)
What problems does spatial computing bring?
- There are privacy concerns, but some organizations are working on making sure any scans are processed locally. Then the objects are extracted, obfuscated, and sent to the cloud for computation. These abstracted objects are called virtual anchors.
- Trust in the system is going to be a huge hurdle.
- Several organizations are working on the privacy issue:
- Metaverse Foundation Europe
- Metaverse Standards Forum
- Open XR
- XR Guild
- Then there’s the issue of when we expose children to these technologies. There is going to come to a point where the virtual is just as realistic as the real. Smarter avatars and AI will eventually drive some kids to want a virtual dog over a natural dog.
Spatial Computing Thesis by Simon Greenwold
The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi