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AR Will Spark the Next Big Tech Platform?Call It Mirrorworld

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The New York Times
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Someday soon, every place and thing in the real world—every street, lamppost, building, and room—will have its full-size digital twin in the mirrorworld. “In time,” Borges wrote, “the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it.” We are now building such a 1:1 map of almost unimaginable scope, and this world will become the next great digital platform.Google Earth has long offered a hint of what this mirrorworld will look like. But in the mirrorworld, a virtual building will have volume, a virtual chair will exhibit chairness, and a virtual street will have layers of textures, gaps, and intrusions that all convey a sense of “street.”The mirrorworld—a term first popularized by Yale computer scientist David Gelernter—will reflect not just what something looks like but its context, meaning, and function. Subscribe to WIRED.At first, the mirrorworld will appear to us as a high-­resolution strata of information overlaying the real world. (Unlike the dark, closed goggles of VR, AR glasses use see-through technology to insert virtual apparitions into the real world.)Eventually we’ll be able to search physical space as we might search a text—“find me all the places where a park bench faces sunrise along a river.” We will hyperlink objects into a network of the physical, just as the web hyperlinked words, producing marvelous benefits and new products.The mirrorworld will have its own quirks and surprises. The real value of this work will emerge from the trillion unexpected combinations of all these primitive elements.The first big technology platform was the web, which digitized information, subjecting knowledge to the power of algorithms; it came to be dominated by Google. Also, like its predecessors, this new platform will unleash the prosperity of thousands more companies in its ecosystem, and a million new ideas—and problems—that weren’t possible before machines could read the world.Glimpses of the mirrorworld are all around us. Embodied with volume, size, and texture, it acts like an avatar.In 2016, GE recast itself as a “digital industrial company,” which it defines as “the merging of the physical and digital worlds.” Which is another way of saying it is building the mirrorworld. The company is using AI “to build an immersive virtual replica of what is happening across the entire factory floor.” What better way to troubleshoot a giant six-axis robotic mill than by overlaying the machine with its same-sized virtual twin, visible with AR gear? This is what Ori Inbar, a VC investor in AR, calls “moving the internet off screens into the real world.”For the mirrorworld to come fully online, we don’t just need everything to have a digital twin; we also need to build a 3D model of physical reality in which to place those twins. The technical term for this is SLAM—simultaneous localization and mapping—and it’s happening now.For example, the startup built a platform for developing AR apps that can discern large objects in real time. Rather than cutting you off from the world, they form a new connection to it,” writes Keiichi Matsuda, former creative director for Leap Motion, a company that develops hand-­gesture technology for AR.The full blossoming of the mirrorworld is waiting for cheap, always-on wearable glasses. The robot’s success in navigating will depend on the previously mapped contours of the road—existing 3D scans of the light posts and fire hydrants on the sidewalk, of the precise municipal position of traffic signs, of the exquisite details on doorways and shop windows rendered by landlord scans.Of course, like all interactions in the mirrorworld, this virtual realm will be layered over the view of the physical world, so the robot will also see the real-time movements of people as they walk by. Much of the real-time digitization of moving things will be done by other cars as they drive around themselves, because all that a robot sees will be instantly projected into the mirrorworld for the benefit of other machines. When a robot looks, it will be both seeing for itself and providing a scan for other robots.In the mirrorworld too, virtual bots will become embodied; they’ll get a virtual, 3D, photorealistic shell, whether machine, animal, human, or alien. In this way, the mirrorworld may be best referred to as a 4D world.Like the web and social media before it, the mirror­world will unfold and grow, producing unintended problems and unexpected benefits. We will be happy to do that when (and if) we believe we get real value from this virtual place.The emergence of the mirrorworld will affect us all at a deeply personal level. Clay Bavor, vice president of AR and VR at Google, says, “We want an open service that gets better each time someone uses it, like the web.”The mirrorworld will raise major privacy concerns. To make this spatial realm work—to synchronize the virtual twins of all places and all things with the real places and things, while rendering it visible to millions—will require tracking people and things to a degree that can only be called a total surveillance state.We reflexively recoil at the specter of such big data. My hope is that with a fresh start, the mirrorworld is the place we can figure this out first.From the earliest stirrings of the internet, the digital world was seen as a disembodied cyberspace—an intangible realm separated from the physical world, and so unlike material existence that this electronic space could claim its own rules.

As said here by Kevin Kelly