What you'll find below are some of the best articles on human-computer interfaces that were shared in the CTOdaily newsletter in 2018.
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Oculus' chief scientist Michael Abrash said that AR glasses are "going to be the great transformational technologies of the next 50 years.” There's increasing consensus that artificial reality, made up of technologies that trick the senses into believe something digital is real, is going to be the Fourth Platform in computing. The previous three, the personal computer, the internet, and the mobile phone were all transformative, changing how we interact with the world. This next chapter will change not only how we interact with it, but how we see it as well
In July of 2016, Elon Musk started Neuralink - a company with the intention of building a 'neural lace'. This is basically a net of tiny electrodes that gets implanted into the brain to facilitate brain to computer communication. In order to be relevant in the age of artificial intelligence, Musk has said that a merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence will be necessary to ensure we stay economically valuable. This brings up a whole host of ethical, and even existential considerations. Are we ready for tech like this to exist? On a practical side, exploring this could really help us understand the machinations of the brain in greater detail.
Ever seen a pair of augmented reality glasses that made you say 'Huh, I'd wear that'. Me neither. The issue is, if predictions of tech prophets come true, augmented reality will soon become the future of human-computer interaction — seamlessly bringing the digital world to the physical world around you. For AR glasses to be the universal interface in our lives, however, they need to be fashionable as well as highly functional. Unfortunately, at the moment there's a trade off. The more functionality, the bulkier the glasses are (and the worse they look) and vice versa. The extremes are well represented by the ODG's R9 glasses and Intel's Vaunt glasses. In the coming years the bulkiness of higher-functioning glasses will reduce as components get smaller — but the race is on due to the huge financial returns the first consumer-accepted AR glasses will result in.
Research on whether or not merely having one’s own smartphone nearby could influence cognitive abilities was conducted recently — and the results are striking. In two lab experiments, nearly 800 people completed tasks designed to measure their cognitive capacity. Before completing these tasks, the participants were asked to either place their phones in front of them (face-down on their desks), keep them in their pockets or bags, or leave them in another room. Importantly, all phones had sound alerts and vibration turned off, so the participants couldn’t be interrupted by notifications. Individuals who completed these tasks while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In last place were those whose phones were on their desks. How will this affect your relationship with your smartphone? Does your workplace have any rules about smartphone usage? There's no need to get draconian, but in light of emerging research, it's worth thinking about.
Dr Eric C Leuthardt, 45, is a neurosurgeon and co-founder of NeuroLutions, a research laboratory developing direct interfaces between mind and computer. He is working on developing electrode systems that can directly decode the voice in our heads in order to direct external action. He's making some headway as well -- Leuthardt’s subjects have been able to control the cursor of a Space Invaders video game just by thinking. "He believes that in the coming years neural implants that link the human brain directly to computers to enhance cognitive functions will be like pacemakers or tattoos, used with hardly a second thought." I highly recommend reading the interview linked above, it's a glimpse of a technologically augmented existence we're very likely to experience.
A group of renegade artists has co-opted the brightly-lit Jackson Pollock gallery, turning it into their personal augmented reality playground. In physical space, the gallery remains unchanged; Pollock’s distinctive drip paintings are as prominent and pristine as ever. But to those that have downloaded the MoMAR Gallery app on their smartphones, the impressionist's iconic paintings are merely markers—points of reference telling the app where to display the guerilla artists’ works. These digital artists have developed an app called MoMAR Gallery. Information on their site says: "Welcome to MoMAR. An unauthorized gallery concept aimed at democratizing physical exhibition spaces, museums, and the curation of art within them. MoMAR is non-profit, non-owned, and exists in the absence of any privatized structures. MoMAR uses Augmented Reality to overlay art onto existing artwork and frames housed in museums and gallery spaces around the world."
Some surgeons in the UK will start using augmented reality to help them 'see inside the body' while operating. Instead of memorising a 3D reconstruction of a sick child’s heart, surgeons will be able to view it on their headset during the procedure. Professor Martin Cowie, from Imperial College London, chairman of the ESC digital health committee, likened it to using Sat Nav to guide surgeons instead of relying on an AA map. He said: “This is a big step forward. This will lead to more accurate and safer operations, particularly in complex cases. Every patient is different from the textbook, so it is hard to visualise their heart during surgery." The device they'll be using is Microsoft's HoloLens, one of the best AR headsets on the market.
Lockheed Martin engineers working on NASA's new Orion capsule are using Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset to help guide them in assembling it. This substantially reduces the need for them to refer to the thousands of pages of instructions. (I hope IKEA comes out with something similar soon!) "In the headset, the workers can see holograms displaying models that are created through engineering design software from Scope AR. Models of parts and labels are overlaid on already assembled pieces of spacecraft. Information like torquing instructions—how to twist things—can be displayed right on top of the holes to which they are relevant, and workers can see what the finished product will look like. The virtual models around the workers are even color-coded to the role of the person using the headset."