integrated reality, Tech and Business

Exponential Technology Revolution #3 – Integrated Reality

(En español aquí)

Integrated reality is the marrying of the physical and the digital and making our interaction with it totally transparent. With the physical being fully measurable and programmable like digital is right now. And, with the digital being instantiated physically or through lifelike virtual worlds in which interaction is complete. Integrated reality also includes moving intelligent processes to the physical world through robots, sensors, and actuators, managing to substitute much human routine physical labor in the process.

Integrated reality has a wide number of technologies impacting it. First, it is based on the foundation of Intelligent Processes, Digital and AI. On top of that virtual reality and enhanced reality technologies are key, to be able to physicalize the digital and integrate digital and physical. Internet of Things and 5G networks, with connected sensors and actuators of all shapes and sizes, is a key enabling technology which “digitalizes” physical reality to any accuracy we are willing to invest in. Voice and mind interfaces will remove the filter that the keyboard, screen or mouse puts to our interaction. Finally, physical robots in the sense of integrated physical entities with sensing, actuation, and machine learning capabilities will be the avatars of software processes in the physical world.

We will perceive integrated reality as a fundamental change to our lives, as it will touch our day to day environment and even our concept of reality. Integrated reality will change the way the world works for us, and many of the things it enables will seem like magic. We will speak words or think thoughts and this will translate into actions and changes both in the digital and the physical world. The physical world will also reflect the digital world in a way that was impossible until now.

As the digital and the physical become integrated we will be able to do what we do in the digital world in the physical world. First, we will be able to measure and quantify reality constantly and effortlessly with increasing granularity, like we do with digital systems. Second, we will be able to act on the world in a software-based world leveraging automation, code and machine intelligence. Third, we will be able to integrate the physical and the digital, and even the physical from several locations. We will be able to create digital settings based on physical ones or add a digital layer to physical settings in enhanced reality.

A good way to understand the impact of ubiquitous measurement is the “Google Analytics for shops” metaphor. With integrated reality, we could be able to measure anything that happens in a store. Who comes in, what aisles are visited, which items are browsed or considered, total funnel clarity up to which point did each item get to and where did it fall in the funnel. Beyond the shop scenario, you can think innumerable others, a hairdresser, a factory, an electrical grid with damage and repairs, etc.. The possibilities in each case are endless. Having that amount of information about physical reality would probably lead to a similar impact to that of big data over the digital world.

Acting on the physical world is equally transformative. It means that we will be effectively able to “click” on the physical world even if we are not physically there and have our wishes performed. Of course, it goes beyond clicking; it means physical responses to our voice commands or even our thoughts. Pure magic, enabled by technology.  It also means embodied software processes roaming the world and doing our bidding without us having to tell them anything, and with the same omniscience, processes have in the digital world. These types of embodied software processes defy our imagination. We can now think of robots mostly, but probably the best form factors won’t necessarily have to mimic humans or mammals.

Physical and digital world integration is most relevant and dangerous psychologically and socially. We will have the opportunity to create full virtual reality worlds and interact with them realistically. The possibilities here are endless and scary. Full alienation into virtual reality is a common trope in science fiction dystopias, and could become a real societal problem, much like drugs or gaming are used to escape today. Enhanced reality is extremely potent, allowing us a contextual menu or display on reality. At the same time, it carries the threat of taking mobile phone distraction to our every interaction. Finally, virtual-physical reality combination can be very potent really eliminating distance as a factor.

Overall, we can expect integrated reality to transform totally our physical world by making it “clickable and searchable” like the internet. Additionally, we will see embodied intelligent processes substitute a large number of jobs that are routine physical causing many of the same advantages and tensions that we see with regular intelligent processes. Finally, virtual and enhanced reality will have the deepest and most psychologically and transformative impact on us.

As always Integrated Reality will be made real through seeing what is already deployed (the Facts), what could reasonably be expected to happen (the Speculations) and what could eventually see happening (the Wild Guess)

Integrated Reality Facts

  • Digitized physical shops. Google Analytics for shops.
  • Smart cities. Sensing and acting urban landscapes.
  • 3D Printing. Turning digital into reality
  • Physical robots. Embodied Intelligent Processes.
  • Smart vehicles. I need you, Kit.
  • Voice interfaces. Alexa, I want to talk with Cortana and Siri.

Integrated Reality Speculations

  • Home automation. Your robot housekeeper.
  • Virtual reality. Virtual reality as a medium.
  • Enhanced reality. Getting Google Glass to Work.
  • Physical-Digital integration. Where are we?
  • Mind-machine interfaces. Voice is so much work!

Wild Guess: Real World of Warcraft

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