Rich Green is excited.
“This phenomenon is the single most important development in the history of technology. It will change human evolution. It'll change the human species. It's right there in front of us.
“And what's really mind blowing is that it's three years away.”
Green is speaking about something that’s been referred to as the Spatial Web, Mirrorworld, or Web 3.0.
Web 3.0 is a development that Green’s been tracking from his vantage point in Northern California — his firm, Rich Green Ink, sits in close proximity to Stanford and the big tech firms that have overtaken the Bay Area.
Green’s been watching the convergence of a number of technologies — from 5G to Blockchain to Edge Computing — that will take the web as we know it now and turn it into the stuff we’ve heretofore only seen in science fiction.
Web 1.0 and 2.0, then …
First, a bit of background: When Netscape and other browsers started popping up on desktop machines back in the mid-1990s, the web was a one-way proposition for most people: you read text, looked at still pictures, and so on. That was Web 1.0.
“Web 2.0, which is the era we're in right now, was the dawning of mobile applications, social networking, and interactivity with the web,” says Green. “Blogs, blog posting, Facebook, that's Web 2.0, where you have web-based, rich media applications that are interactive.”
Green prefers the term “Spatial Web” for the next iteration of our digital world. “Web 3.0, which is this new era that's emerging right now, incorporates the spatial web. The metaphor goes from a flat, two-dimensional screen to an experience where you're actually looking through the screen into a three-dimensional world. That 3D world is our real reality, but overlaid on top of it, on a one-to-one match, is a digital reality. That digital reality is comprised of spatial applications ordered and made sense of with artificial intelligence.”
We’ve seen primitive peeks into what’s next: Pokemon Go is one example. But the 3.0 version will be vastly more complex than the appearance of a cartoon character appearing on a smartphone’s image of the sidewalk in front of us. “It's a digital twin, it's a digital mapping of digital assets, creations of 3D objects, and so on, overlaid on top of the real world,” explains Green. “The way we peek into that is through our cellphones, it's through our tablets, but, most importantly, it's through augmented reality glasses.”
This is crucial, according to Green: “Augmented reality is the key to our visibility into the 3D web.”
Iot + 5G + Edge Computing + AR + AR Cloud + AI + Imagination
= The Spatial Web
But AR is just one part of the equation that makes this advance possible. The speed and low latency of 5G, the ubiquity of the Internet of Things, the power of edge computing, and the distributed ledgers of Blockchain — which can help provide security and “democratization” of the tech, as Green puts it — all converge to create the potential for this next-gen web experience. As every part of this string of technologies communicates with its fellows via the AR Cloud, the spatial web creates a one-to-one “Mirrorworld” (as dubbed by Kevin Kelley in Wired magazine) that can mimic — or enhance or distort —the world we’re physically, as opposed to digitally, living in. Add a set of haptic gloves that simulates the sense of touching an object that isn’t actually there in three-dimensional space, and you’ve got an immersive experience that can convincingly rival the “real” experiences one has every day. (Merriam-Webster defines “haptics” as “The use of electronically or mechanically generated movement that a user experiences through the sense of touch as part of an interface [as on a gaming console or smartphone]).”
“All you need is imagination, and the world changes, the human species changes,” says Green.
“We're going to have a complete upside-down transformation of home controls.”
So what does this mean for the CEDIA integrator? And how does one prepare?
Green: “Keep an eye on everything I'm talking about. Go back and reassess your relationship with the IoT. Be prepared to deploy 5G inside people's homes and businesses. Become hip and wise to the augmented reality glasses, earbuds, and fingertip haptic devices. Buy them. Buy samples, put them in your lab. Have a budget for this kind of R&D in your companies. Learn it, and when Apple comes out with an augmented reality set of glasses, buy them. Get them to your staff and work the stuff out.
“Because what will happen is we're going to have use cases in the home. With the spatial web you'll be able to see Alexa and Siri walking around the room in front of you as a robot, as a person, as an avatar. You'll be able to react to them and respond to them as if there was a person in the room named Siri.
“We're going to have a complete upside-down transformation of home controls. Instead of having to install a Crestron or a Control4 keypad on the wall, there's nothing on the wall. You just look at it with AR glasses, and there's a virtual keypad there, and you point to it, and you say, ‘Turn down the volume.’ You point to a speaker and you say, ‘Turn up the volume on that speaker.’ You point to a lamp in the ceiling and you say, ‘Dim that light.’ This gesture interactive mode of home controls, where there actually are no physical controls in the room, they're all in the spatial web space, that becomes richer than anything we've ever had or imagined.”