The Future of Life, Lived Online

One of my favorite books of all time is “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. As a child of the 80’s, I loved all the 80’s nostalgia that the novel revels in, from John Hughes movies, Atari video games, new wave music, etc. As a long-time player of MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft and Elder Scrolls Online, I was intrigued by the book’s vision of the near future, both good and bad, in terms of the evolution of our online virtual lives. Ready Player One cover

In that future, with a planet so devastated by environmental degradation, income inequality, and corporate greed, the vast majority of Earth’s populace spend their time in OASIS. OASIS is a virtual world where kids go to school, everyone plays games, and all wanting to escape from real life.

This future, which the futurist Ray Kurzweil, predicted in 2003, seems that much closer to reality. A large number of companies are developing holographic or augmented technology with the aim of realizing this new way of “life lived online”.

With Microsoft’s announcement of HoloLens, Facebook’s $2 billion dollar acquisition of Oculus Rift, and even Google’s now defunct Glass, this future where the either our lives are lived almost entirely online, or at least the divide between the physical and the virtual are blurred, is getting very close indeed.

What does this new future mean for companies like Matrix and our clients?

man in front of screens

image courtesy Microsoft

As designers and crafters of these virtual experiences, we will need to integrate new modes of interaction. Currently, we factor in keyboard+mouse, touch, and gesture into the experiences we craft. In this holographic future, we will need to design for new biometric interactions, fully 360 degree views, and more of the body’s natural motions into our interfaces. There will also be much more of a deep integration into our physical environments as well, as these new interfaces react profoundly with location, surface, and the whole digital net. Lastly, our whole semiotic relationship with digital experiences will evolve, and we will need to understand what this means for us and our clients.

For our clients, we will need to work more closely in terms of the kinds of experiences they want their customers to have, the context in which these interactions occur, and how their brand are expressed in this new virtual world.

As a designer, a gamer, and a human, I’m so excited at the potential this technology has, and in how it can enhance our lives, that I can’t wait for it arrive. I’m player one, and I’m ready to go!

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