One of Mike’s friends (haven’t know him long enough yet to call him a friend of mine… when does that transition happen, anyways?) that I met on Monday night was names Giles, and him and I had chatted for a bit about the research that he was doing at the Uni; one of the symptoms of being an Engineer is wanting to hear all about cool research, even if you can’t really understand what they heck it means. And from that conversation he invited me to meet up at the Human Interface Technology (HIT) lab at UC.
I met up with him around two or so in the afternoon, dropping in on him unannounced thanks to my lack of a working Kiwi cellphone… and my unwillingness to pay $2.00 a minute on my international phone. Heh. We chatted for a while about what the HITlab actually does, some of the cooler projects that they’ve worked on, and the specifics on what his project actually is. One of the coolest things that he showed me was a room that looked (seriously, this is real) like the Holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It had the grid and everything, and from what Giles told me it could be used as a 3D wrap-around theater, where the motion-sensors would detect the subjects movement and allow them to interact with the projections. Yeah, scary-cool stuff right there.
So after the show-and-tell portion of the visit was over Giles showed me into the “experimental survey room” where the test was to take place. He set everything up, explained all the rules, and I signed on all the dotted lines… and then we finally got everything started. The goal of his system was to assist a new and untrained user in assembling a basic motherboard from the upper-level components (board, processor, video card, RAM and S-Video). I wasn’t really an untrained user, but he needed all the data that he could get so I guess it works.
And seriously… this system was cool. He had programmed it all himself (using pre-built modules I believe, but not 100% sure) and how it worked was that the program told you to pick up a part, verified that you had the right part, and then told you to place it into the motherboard before checking that you placed it correctly. Simple… but for each step it would also show you. First which part was correct by overlaying a 3D arrow over the part, and second by overlaying a 3D demonstration of how the part was fitted into the system. The glasses would overlay these instructions as if they were actually there… and I definitely spent a little too much time playing around with changing the orientation and having the arrow change too, and placing the part incorrectly ans having the system show me the correct way to put it in again.
It was a bit scary, to be honest, seeing digitally-created images overlayed into my waking world. I don’t know what this means for humanity, either for good or ill, but I’ll really curious to see how it turns out once they technology is finished and expanded upon. Random people being able to create a computer from its base components… and people being driven insane by images of things that aren’t there, or even people being erased from other peoples vision by simply editing them out. Very cool, and very dangerous.