Leaps & Bounds: Skipping Through the Digital Light Field

"...our natural biological response to the false sense of movement, often called Sim Sickness, makes us a bit unstable..."

So yes, I have a little bit of a preoccupation with the way cinematic technology seeps into our biology. Who doesn't? I mean, digital technology effects every one of us in some way and the idea of it becoming human has been a cultural preoccupation forever! Also, the next step in nearly all new inventions is to use them as an artistic medium, to tell a story using a device that is made in and reflects the moment. Then comes advertising. Or politics. Or commerce. Gosh humans can be gross, anyway...

Google & a bunch of other techies are in the process of investing 500 million dollars into a company called Magic Leap? What the hell is Magic Leap you might ask? Their website creates an eerie, sleek utopia of a fantastical future that only their technological prowess can create. Ambiguous? Yes! Scary? Perhaps! Basically Magic Leap seems to be creating a form of what they call "cinematic reality" (a term they have, in fact, trademarked) that takes 3-D off of the screen and seemingly out of the glasses, possibly like the growing field of augmented reality combined with virtual reality, taking the real world and overlaying a completely new one on top of it.

Most virtual reality & 3d technology need eyewear to function, both of our eyes need to be focused on whatever unreal thing is trying to be real, but this leads to problems. So much VR gear causes motion sickness from lag times in image processing & the eye and our natural biological response to the false sense of movement, often called Sim Sickness, makes us a bit unstable- the experience has been likened to the altered state of scuba divers whose bodies undergo massive physical reconditioning in their underwater environment. Yet, the few things I could read about top secret Magic Leap mention that they are working within a so called "digital light field," which to me sounds like an image plane outside of the body, or maybe even combined with the body?

Here is where my non-scientist brain tries to figure out what the hell Magic Leap is doing in their top secret lab: maybe some kind of light or pixel boost will be projected onto, or worn directly on, your eyes (filling in, blocking out or enhancing the retina perhaps, like lcd screens for our eyes? or maybe a contact lens like contraption that manipulates our field of vision? like a wearable plenoptic lens or polarized lens?) and then projectors (multi-lensed projectors? holographic computer chip projectors? polarized projectors? holographic 3d projectors?) or maybe even special screens (moving projection mapped screens? polarized screens- which reminds me of this little old project I had a great big hand in!) will combine to process images into the closest to real something can seem.

Holy crap this is terrifying. And amazing. And I worry that the more realistic we can make fake reality the less likely we will try to save our actual reality...or live our actually reality for that matter. But who knows, maybe being able to more realistically experience other people & places would create a more empathetic, enlightened human race? Maybe we need documentaries that will actually transport your brain and sensory being to the melting ice caps in order to believe in their demise? Okay now, who will make the first Magic Leap film? I really hope it is Herzog!

Note: This whole thing reminds me so much of George Saunders' sci-fi fable My Flamboyant Grandson in which a rural man takes his gay grandson to the city for a Broadway play where he is bombarded with holographic ads on the street targeted at him by a device he is forced to wear in his shoes which, when removed by the grandfather due to discomfort, causes "Citizen Helpers" to intervene and urge him to "celebrate his preferences." Only a matter of time...



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.