When I was a kid, I was a hardcore fantasy geek. I’ve read most major fantasy franchises and I loved playing fantasy based games. When I was in eighth grade at Catholic school, I started a Dungeons and Dragons club, but when the nuns found out there were demons involved, they shut me down. Didn’t they realize we were killing the demons! Come on Sister. Fireballs for Jesus!
The advent of computers stretched my love for fantasy into new mediums. I could play fantasy based games on the computers for hours on end. One Christmas, I pulled the discs for the game Wizardry out of my wrapped present and loaded them into our 8088 (this was the mid-1980s) computer. I would play late at night, so my parents didn’t know that I was enjoying the fruits of Christmas morning two weeks early.
Even then I imagined computer games of the future that would immerse the player in the game. With my limited imagination I envisioned a wrap-around wall of video screens on a coin operated video game. I figured by the time I was old enough to have a job, I’d be able to buy my own video game to have in my house. Considering that I own three computers and a Wii hooked to my 42″ TV, my prediction wasn’t far off, except I don’t need to keep a sack full of quarters around the house.
So you could say I’ve always been thinking about a digital life, though mine involved hacking limbs off of virtual orcs. Come to think of it, I still do that, regularly playing World of Warcraft, but I digress.
When I was dreaming up a world for my main character Zel, I was trying to think of something gritty and realistic, but not so far into the future. I wanted the world believable and based on real science. In some ways like any William Gibson novel, but not so lyrical. Mostly because I could never pull off the poetry of his prose.
Once I had the concept, that the Internet could be seen–not as a computer monitor–but like reading a book, the rest came easy. The Digital Sea would be seen as a living Internet, superimposed upon our real one. Television screens would become obsolete as virtual screens could hover a few feet away in what ever size you wanted it to be. Clothes would not be limited to fabrics and gravity, but could shimmer like a sunset and rustle in unseen winds. Painting walls would be wasteful, when a new digital color could be used instead. The old real color would still exist underneath, but seen through the screens on the eyes, the walls would be what ever color you wished, or covered in dog hair, if that was your thing. And changed in an instant.
The Internet, in a sense, is woven into our lives. The immersiveness of it and the way it is viewed, led me to the name The Digital Sea. The evolution of the Internet. There would need to be three parts for this Digital Sea to happen. A connection of real world to the digital one, a way to see the digital world and a way to control it. I’ll try to tackle each one.
The first, the connection of the real world to the digital one, is sometimes, as I later found out, called ubiquitous computing. The Internet of Things. Imagine a refrigerator that knew what was in it and could suggest recipes. Ubicomp requires the world to be mapped digitally. Right now Google is attempting to map the world for their Google Earth project. This is placing all the big non-movable objects in a digital world.
It’s all the moving pieces in-between that cause issues, but that can be solving through the use of cameras and tagging. If the car you drive has a series of tags, or I call them motes, on it that help define its dimension and location. These motes can communicate with the digital world, so the car can be doubly represented in the Digital Sea. While the scope of this is huge, if the cost of tags were cheap and people were sufficiently motivated to place them, the world could be mapped quickly. Of course, I’m not outlining how the Digital Sea could happen, just how it works.
The second step is the visual representation. The first step would most likely be through screens on a pair of glasses. Glasses could allow stereovision which in turn creates three dimensional space. At the time I was dreaming of the Digital Sea, I though maybe screens could be implanted onto corneas. This dream isn’t so far off, because already, they’re implanting HUDs into contacts.
The first two when working together, allow for some amazing things to happen. If the Digital Sea knows where your car is because of the motes on it, then a different car could be drawn over the real one as seen through your glasses. So instead of a 2030 Toyota Camry, you could be driving a giant fish. Would other people see you driving a giant fish? This would probably depend on laws, or how you set your car-fish motes. This would be the same as having a private web page that only selected people could see, or having a public one that everyone could see.
The third aspect is the control system. Touch screens are becoming more prevaliant in this age, but if the screen is on the eye, how do you interact? As I said in a previous blog, I waved my writer hands at this problem and decided some sort of mind control would work. Neural actuators, since created, have solved this problem for me. Currently, they are crude implements only allowing for a few outputs, but time and innovations could work wonders.
These three aspects would complete the trifecta of the Digital Sea. After that, only the imagination, and local laws would limit someone from doing amazing or crazy things. In the Digital Sea, the perception of reality becomes a maelable tool.