Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In the Embrace of 3D Worlds

The possibilities that 3D worlds offer are endless. This post presents some of these possibilities we came up with during a session of VIDICO’s Creative Foresight Space, which is a space, an event and a method for mapping out futures. The event was held at the Innopark in Hämeenlinna, Finland, in the early spring of 2011.

The functional uses are especially numerous for example in the fields of healthcare, education, process management, planning, building and marketing. Also the police and officials performing social functions could evidently benefit from 3D technologies.

Virtual deep scanning makes for snappy diagnoses. Building plans can be tested effortlessly, revised on a whim, and if the change is displeasing, returned back to the way they were in the blink of an eye. Virtual shopping of garments from the comfort of one’s own home offers a tempting alternative for the traditional, full of stress and sweating in changing rooms and check-out queues mode of shopping. Fabulous and varied outfits are only a click or two away and a virtual stylist will instantly suggest most flattering colours and alternatives.

In terms of entertainment and free time, 3D worlds provide both ways to improve old and traditional leisurely activities and means to develop altogether new and exciting ones. An example of the latter are applications that will allow one to experience for example a chemical or religious high without abusing substances or a bothersome trip to mother Amma’s ashram. Maybe 3D experiences could even replace harmful addictions? 3D worlds open new and interesting doors for arts as well. 3D movies, pioneered by James Cameron’s Avatar, and 3D theatres are already commonplace. While 3D will not make a bad movie into a good one, it will certainly enhance the viewing experience of a film that is already good. Additionally, any educational message entailed in a 3D movie will likely go through, accredited to its impressive medium.

The conquering of distances and multi-sensual innovations bring the element of virtual space to 3D worlds. A new era of adventures is available to the masses. How would you feel about a trip to the centre of the earth or into the recesses of your own viscera? How about walking on the moon or soaring through outer space? What’s more, these experiences might be combined to a refreshing sleep, induced by a machine. 3D space rentals will allow you to access a cruise ship or survey a potential party venue while never setting foot outside your abode. Virtual pets are just as cute and therapeutic as real ones, without the downside of taking the puppy out for a walk at six in the morning in pouring rain or having to constantly feed him. 3D pets will ease the loneliness of many in today’s isolated world – especially those who are allergic.

If 3D technology is combined with electrochemical capacities, it may be used to battle depression and other disorders. 3D worlds can reinforce positive thinking and thus cut down the societal costs caused by these disorders. Also aggression can be suppressed and focus can be turned towards more constructive activities. Furthermore, 3D worlds are a great tool for various types of social coaching or the teaching or learning of any hobby.

The downsides are there too, however. In particular, the threat of isolation, addiction and loosening one’s grip on reality are very real threats associated with the excessive use of virtual worlds. Those threats can only become more likely as the immersion becomes more complete through the 3D element. Applications designed for individual and not social use may easily lead to users becoming encapsulated in their own little worlds. Especially children are susceptible to be detrimentally influenced by the lack of real and physical adult presence.

Moreover, as virtual 3D worlds gain market dominance over traditional real-life activities, the health consequences may be severe. The pull of the 3D worlds may lead to a lack of exercise and blatant disregard of one’s physical wellbeing with a drastic impact on the public health. If 3D virtual travelling will gain popularity, the real-life travel business will surely suffer. As 3D offers both diverse ways of self-improvement and global access, the pressures imposed by competitive business and educational worlds will multiply. The most far-out scenario is that the whole society as we know it will cease to exist and we will wake up to a brave new world with features no-one dared to anticipate.

Regardless, the greatest possibilities of 3D worlds lie in the fact that the technologies will allow us to efficiently overcome the multiple limitations of our existence. They will add new layers to our reality. They imitate and create reality in a believable manner while being absolutely independent of the constraints of physical reality. Not only can they help us out in many little ways, they also offer a means to make any outlandish fantasy into tangible reality. In this sense they fulfill the basic function of technology as an enhancer of our abilities in a brand new manner. One needs not strain one’s imagination very far in order to grasp the potential offered by 3D worlds, albeit still a little ways away in the digital horizon.