Futuristic Betting at VisWeek 2009.

So I went to IEEE VisWeek 2009, and it was far more awesome and enjoyable than even my most optimistic expectations. Besides contributing to the tweetstorm (see #visweek) but not being able to liveblog due to higher priority activities, attending paper presentations and chatting with as many cool people as possible (much higher priority activities), this year I’ve also made a number of elaborate bets with a subset of said cool people concerning the future of our technology. If all goes according to plan, the bets’ll end up being visionary, if not, they might be slightly embarrassing and we’ll have a good laugh at VisWeek 2019.

Because these bets only realise in 10 or 20 years, I’ve told my betting partners that I would write it up on my blog so that we could check in that much time, and that they would then owe me copious amounts of beer. This also gives them the opportunity to check my wording for suitability, as we might have to cleave hairs when the time comes.

Bet #1: HUDs.

Bet #1: At VisWeek 2019, I and at least one other person will be wearing a HUD pretty much all the time, OR I will have at least one bionic eye.

Courtesy of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

I made this bet with the infamous Dr. Bob Laramee, proprietor of the 5-star webpage. This came up in a conversation about having some form of non-intrusive display device always available with which things could be looked up, relatively unobtrusively, during for example a conversation.

I do expect that sometime within the next 10 years, HUDs (heads-up display) will be offered as an option with every new set of spectacles. This is definitely not a push-over bet, but that makes it all the more exciting.

I’m not sure how the bionic eye clause slipped in there, honestly!

Bet #2: The future of cars.

Bet #2: 19.5 years from now, there will be more cars with alternative propulsion systems than there are cars with fossil-fuel based internal combustion engines.

This one was made with Dr Helmut Doleisch, linked view data analysis guru and now CEO of SimVis (hey man, BUY THEIR SOFTWARE!). He is concerned with all the vested interests in fossil-fuel combustion, whereas I think that 19.5 years is more than enough time to introduce non-fossil fuel based propulsion systems on the road, so much so that less than 50% of cars on the road will have need of fossil fuel.

Brazil with its 190 million inhabitants is an interesting example in this regard: A large number of their cars already run on either gasoline or sugarcane ethanol — clearly a great step in the direction of non-fossil fuel options.

Bet #3: The future of conferences.

Bet #3: In 2029, distributed conferences with tele-presence will be common.

In this case, the beer-donor is Dr Stefan Bruckner, master of all things volume visualisation and father of the VolumeShop software system. My contention is that in 20 years, conferences where attendees take part via tele-presence systems, whatever they may be, will be common-place.

I’ve called one of the models I envision of this “clustered telepresence”, which would entail that groups of attendees would indeed gather physically, but that these remote clusters would be connected by advanced tele-presence systems, involving advanced displays (think very large, or perhaps even some form of mobile volumetric displays) and distributed and mobile sound.

During the discussion preceding the making of this bet, valid concerns were raised with regard to the efficacy of remote socialising, especially beer-drinking. I agree that this is an issue of utmost importance, but still contend that technology and efficiency concerns will conspire to address this problem in a way that is at least good enough to fool, to a sufficient extent, all parties involved.

Update on 2019-10-27

On Friday, October 25, Dr DataVis Bob of Bet #1, Dr Helmut Doleisch of Bet #2 and Prof Noeska Smit (representing both me and Prof Bruckner of Bet #3), the former three all present at VisWeek 2019, recorded a three-part video message to me, and to the world, in which they declared that I had definitely lost bet #1.

I do agree fully with their judgement.

As far as they could establish, there was no-one else at VisWeek 2019 with any form of HUD… WHICH THEY COULD DETECT!

However, I was definitely not present at VisWeek.

Even if I had been there, I don’t own any of the spectacle-integrated HUDs that I predicted in 2009, and I still have both my own organic eyes.

Anyways, the fact of the matter is that I now owe Dr Bob an unspecified amount of beer.

More seriously, a few years after my 2009 prediction of HUDs in spectacles, Google released Google Glass. At that point, I thought that things were going to go my way.

However, after the initial hype, criticism started piling up, and the project was shelved a few years later.

That being said, recent developments such as Microsoft’s augmented reality Hololens, the great deal of R&D effort Apple is pouring into augmented reality in all of their hardware, and other movements in the technology landscape, lead me to think that this discussion about omni-present non-intrusive personal displays is not completely over.

Bets #2 and #3

There are still 9.5 years left for bet #2.

I have asked Dr Helmut if we could amend the bet to specify cars in the EU.

Even if he agrees, there’s indeed not that much time in car-years for more than half of the cars on roads in the EU to have non-fossil-fuel propulsion systems.

However, if the bet were too easy, it would not be as much fun, now would it?

For bet #3 I am also still going to hang on.

The ongoing deterioration of our environment is one of multiple factors putting more weight behind the movement for better tele-conferencing.

In addition to that, people keep on comparing face-to-face meetings with terrible tele-conference setups.

Of course face-to-face is better than your laptop’s sub-par camera, woefully inadequate sound and embarrassing lack of robot legs!

I am really curious as to the limits and parameters of human immersion.

Who knows what clever tricks can be done to fool the highly gullible human psyche into believing that it’s actually present and interacting with other humans somewhere thousands of kilometres away?

Anyways, I digress.

More importantly than everything I have written in this update, receiving this video message from the future, made by friends who live and work a world away, absolutely made my day.

Friends, I almost felt like I was sitting there with you at VisWeek 2019. Thank you!