A treadmill uses an Oculus headset and special shoes to enable the user to walk or run through a virtual world.
The Tumblr blogSigns From the Near Future
features just that, imaginary signs and warnings that we might come across eventually. The image blog is the brainchild of Fernando Barbella, an artist and creative director in Barcelona.
Barbella creates the images by taking stock photos and manipulating the images in Photoshop. "I look for casual and amateur images on forums and online boards, then I work on putting together the whole thing, trying to integrate the signs in ordinary and very usual places where they would be relevant," Barbella says.
How does Barbella come up with ideas? Any way he can: "Since I'm doing this during my free time, I usually came up with the idea in any give moment of the day, mostly while commuting by train, or taking my dogs for a walk at night."
Barbella says the inspiration for the project came when he was trying to devise a graphical header for another project.
"The idea came from trying to figure out how these upcoming technologies would interact with us," Barbella says. "But at the same time not showing these technologies at all, since we’ve already seen many pictures of those technologies."
Once inspiration for a new image strikes, Barbella immediately starts picturing the context. "I write it down on my mobile or on paper and I try to figure out the best and more natural way to feature it."
Subtlety is a key part of the design, Barbella says. The idea is not to trumpet the oddness of the signs, but rather to emphasize their "normalness" by placing them in very ordinary settings. "We're all very acquainted with signage," he says. "Of course there are some few touches of subtle humor, since I really enjoy irony and black humor a lot."
Barbella says he hopes the project inspires people to think about their relationship to technology. "The goal of the project is to expose a point of view, and to make the visitors think about how far -- and how fast -- we want to go in this kind of technological race," Barbella says. "Although I'm an innovation fan, I'm not an expert or a man of science, and I think there are huge chances to make some mistakes in terms of the final result."
Barbella says he plans to keep updating the image blog regularly, and perhaps take the project in new directions. "It would be nice to blur the line between the online and offline worlds, he says. "Perhaps a small book or a temporary expo in some physical space, or even producing those signs for real and start doing some urban interventions." Follow hisTumblr here
Welcome to "The Matrix?" Not quite, but new technologies are pushing ultra-convincing virtual realities out of the realm of science fiction and into the now.
Some of this new tech was displayed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, including Crescent Bay, the latest prototype headset from Oculus Rift.
"We really try to trick all of your senses into believing that you're there," said Nate Mitchell, co-founder of Oculus, a startup acquired last year by Facebook.
Considered among the most promising developers of virtual reality gear, Oculus says its next generation is even more immersive.
The new headset has improved ergonomics, optics and audio quality, and software that enables better head tracking to follow the user's movements.
With the headset on, you find yourself in a world with dinosaurs or extraterrestrials that seem real enough to touch. The image follows your movements when you look up, down or behind.
Hearing is Believing
Another key to the virtual world is enhancements in 3-D sound, Mitchell told AFP.
"We have 3-D audio in all these demos where you can hear sounds not only 360 degrees around you, but above you and below you," he said.
"After visual, audio is actually one of the major senses that humans use to perceive the world around them."
Some other exhibitors at CES were showing equipment for 3-D sound, which according to developers goes far beyond normal stereo quality.
"For me to feel that something is real, you need more than just sight," said Dimitri Singer, co-founder of the French startup 3D Sounds Lab, which was showing its 3-D audio headphones.
"Sound is what brings emotion."
A treadmill uses an Oculus headset and special shoes to enable the user to walk or run through a virtual world.Virtuix
By giving sounds that seem to come from different dimensions, startups like 3D Sounds Lab hope to provide a new immersive cinema-like experience for people watching films on a tablet or smartphone.
Singer said this technology can also bring immersive sound to other applications such as gaming.
Another virtual reality experience seen at CES was the treadmill designed by the startup Virtuix. The system uses an Oculus headset and special connected shoes, an enables the user to walk or run through the virtual world, on the belief that virtual reality cannot be experienced sitting down.
Virtuix spokesman Lorenzo Adams said the treadmill game "is just the tip of the iceberg," and that the technology can be used in applications such as medical or military training.
Nate Mitchell at Oculus also sees many potential applications for virtual reality technology.
It can be used for virtual face-to-face teleconferencing in a sort of "Skype on steroids," he said.
Education can benefit from this as well, he said.
"That's how your children will learn about the dinosaurs," he said.
"Being able to go hands on and travel to these different places and see these different things and perceiving that they are real and mapping them into your memory is a very powerful thing."
But one element is still missing from the virtual reality puzzle, according to Mitchell: the hands.
With the current virtual reality systems, "you can't see your hands," he said.
"You're interacting a little bit with the world using your head, but you want to reach out, not only touch but you want feel what you're touching. That's been one of the key barriers for VR."