Sunday, December 26, 2021

Niantic CEO John Hanke on AR/VR/Metaverse

WIRED - "‘AR Is Where the Real Metaverse Is Going to Happen’"

"Whereas you want people to actually experience daylight, albeit with a phone in their hands.

I really got into this idea of using digital tech to reinvigorate the idea of a public square, to bring people off the couch and out into an environment they can enjoy. There’s a lot of research that supports the positive psychological impact of walking through a park, walking through a forest—just walking. But now we live in a world where we have all this anxiety, amplified by Covid. There’s a lot of unhappiness. There’s a lot of anger. Some of it comes from not doing what our bodies want us to do—to be active and mobile. In our early experiments, we got a lot of feedback from people who were kind of couch potatoes that the game was causing them to walk more. They were saying, “Wow, this is amazing, I feel so much better. I’m physically better, but mentally I’m way more better. I broke out of my depression or met new people in the community.” We said, “Wow, like, this is good we can do in the world.”"

According to your manifesto, your mission is also to warn about the hype and danger of the full-on metaverse, which has gone from a science fiction concoction to the latest tech buzzword.

We’re at a fork in the road. The future that I am describing is the one that’s going to win. It’s one where computing stays with us, disappearing into the background and supporting what we’re doing. It is ubiquitous computing, which goes back to the early work at Xerox PARC. I feel like that vision of the future has gotten somehow lost tempor


In some cases, you want to make artificial objects persistent, bound to geographic locations available to everyone on your system who’s tuned to a given channel. I live near Astor Place in New York City, so if I had that system, I might be able to see a reenactment of the “Shakespeare Riot” that took place there in the 1800s. And someone I’m walking with, or maybe a whole crowd of people, would be looking at that same historical reenactment, even though, if we took the glasses off, it would be the same old street corner. Is that what you’re talking about?

Yeah, exactly. That’s a great poetic example. A less poetic one would be King Kong climbing up the Empire State Building, or the Ghostbusters vortex on top of that apartment building on Central Park West. You would be able to create that persistent reality. Everybody will be able to see it, and it’s kind of locked in place. With a reality channel, when you use all these tools, you can create with it too.

In your essay, you talk about how you might be walking around and the buildings might take on pastel hues and the people you see would be in costumes. To me that’s a weird thing and maybe even a scary thing. That doesn’t necessarily put you in touch with your world—it distorts the world.

If I asked you to imagine a Greek city, what do you imagine?

I’m thinking of buildings like the Parthenon. Like Greece in my history book.

All those buildings were painted with crazy, psychedelically bright colors—yellows, greens, and reds. We think of them now as these whitewashed buildings. We’ve always adorned our environment, our architecture, with embellishments. These reality channels can make the world more interesting in certain ways, just using bits instead of atoms. Instead of paint, it’s digital paint. It can be very localized, or maybe it’s something that is mapped across the entire world.

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