Category Archives: 3D

Media predictions for the far-forward future

woman hologram

Put down your smartphone app and think far, far ahead. Media prognosticators rarely do this, perhaps because advertising clients and digi-journalists gain more from toying with the latest Twitter group chat update than they do by conceptualizing the state of media 100 years from now … but a far-forward forecast could be worth the effort.

So let’s play the prediction game.

Before we start, here is our inspiration: the brilliant book “The Next 100 Years,” in which George Friedman examines the macro trends of history in attempt to predict world events through the coming century. It’s an amazing feat, reeking of intellectual arrogance, to try to foresee 100 years of future events … until the reader discovers that Friedman has a solid methodology.

Friedman bases far-forecasts on geopolitics — the combination of national resources, locations on the globe, culture, and economics — which has ongoing patterns that make shocking events, such as World War II or the terrorist attacks of 9/11, predictable. Individual players on the planet, even presidents or kings, typically have far less power than we imagine, and must play upon a chess board that is already set. The future, it seems, can be predicted, if you really examine the macro trends. For instance, looking backward, Friedman argues:

  • It was inevitable Europe would become a global power in the 1800s, because it needed supplies from Asia, and after Turkey cut supply routes over land Europe sought a route west to India by sea and thus learned to manage the oceans — controlling global commerce.
  • It was inevitable that the United States would win the cold war over Russia in the late 1900s, because allies to the United States could “sell in” to its vast consumer demand set, making U.S. friends rich, while Russian allies might get weapons but end up impoverished. 

And, looking forward, he suggests:

  • The United States will remain the leading world power in the 21st century, because it controls the world’s oceans, due to its fortuitous placement between both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, thus controlling trade.
  • There will undoubtably be another horrible global war in the 21st century, given the tensions between the rich and poor and the continued belief of humans in their personal nation states.
  • And this war, like all others, will eventually end, and generate new technology systems from the wartime investment that lead to sources of clean power and communications we today can barely imagine, such as microwave energy beamed down from outer space — the most efficient way to capture energy from the battery in the center of our solar system, the sun.

Oceans, human antagonism, and sunlight are all constants, and they will define our future.

So what is the real far-future of media?

Here are our predictions: (1) Environment monitoring, driven by sensors around us; (2) virtual visual overlays that are constantly on, created by the inevitable shrinking of screens until they fit in your contacts; (3) ambient personalization, as you control what you see everywhere; and (4) societal upheaval as we relearn how to interact with other humans in a virtual world.

1. Sensors everywhere — Behind all the Nielsen updates on multiscreen use or Pew reports on social media fads, the truth is information flows only two ways — to us or from us. While media writers remain fascinated with toys, the biggest trend in information flow is the spread of connected sensors in all devices. The iPhone 6 has six sensors built into it — including proximity, motion sensor/accelerometer, ambient light, moisture, compass, and a gyroscope — coupled with GPS features that pinpoint the phone’s location. The Disney Research lab has created a Touche interface that can turn the surface of any object, such as a table or couch, into an input sensor by monitoring vibrations created by human contact. Philips has launched “design probes” that explore tattoos with sensors that disappear based on touch, and clothing that changes color based on your mood.

With sensors everywhere, you will be tracked. Tracking will require control, so humans will use that to personalize their environments (a benefit) while suppressing unwanted third-party oversight (a cost).

When you walk into a room in 2070, the room will know who you are.

2. Screens everywhere — Concurrently, the spread of screens is obvious. At SXSW Interactive last spring, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association, Gary Shapiro, said that within 10 years consumers will buy wall TVs — or whatever we will call high-resolution digital screens that fill an entire wall. Apple has a patent for holographic wall screens that project 3D images to both eyes of each user in the room, without them wearing googles, by monitoring the location of their heads. And Microsoft has just launched a HoloLens goggle prototype that overlays 3D images on reality with a wider field of vision than the (recently aborted) Google Glass. As big TVs grow into walls, little visual screens will also shrink into contacts.

With screens everywhere, you will see whatever image you wish to pull up.

3. A personalized universe — The great media prediction for the next 100 years is that humans will be able to retreat into completely personalized bubbles of vision, overlaying data about others in their contact lens, porting their images into virtual meeting rooms thousands of miles away, and pulling entertainment into the real world around them. Because if everything (from couch to table) senses you, things will recognize your preferences, creating demand for automated content that overlays your reality to meet your unique needs.

From a content creation perspective, this will unlock a gold mine of opportunity for film (hologram) producers, game designers, social media entrants, work/office productivity software, pornographers (always the earliest refiners of visual technology), religions (where belief systems could now be “seen” as reality), and yes, marketers (who will find a way to support this content with some form of advertising over there on the side). This information rush will become fuel for economic growth, with visual services an entire new platform for monetization.

4. Societal unrest — These media trends are our predictions, not Friedman’s, but he has a point that may refine ours: Every evolution in society comes with unintended consequences. The vast rise of visual screens and the concurrent measurement of human personal preferences on every surface device may unearth new social dynamics we cannot anticipate. Will people become more gregarious as they seamlessly are able to beam their avatars into the world? Or will humans retreat into dream bubbles, like those poor enclosed battery souls in the Neo Matrix, asleep in cocoons while they envision a fantasy of greatness?

We cannot predict that. But one thing is certain: The far-forward future contains much more than an iPhone.

How Apple is building a holographic future

3D modeling continues to evolve, and now Apple has acquired C3 Technologies, which uses former military technology to produce photorealistic maps of just about anything. The video above (C3 is a Saab AB spin-off) shows how a plane or helicopter can scan terrain below, to be modeled in 3D allowing future viewers to explore the world from any angle.

What would Apple do with such superb 3D modeling? Rumors abound Apple is preparing to build TVs, and Apple has patented innovative projection technology that would render 3D effects as holograms, no glasses required. The patent, which we’ve explored in detail, would project images that include ambient lighting in the room, so a person standing “before you” would have shadows on her face from the light coming in by the window. Perhaps Apple is planning a holographic future we haven’t envisioned yet.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.


How Apple will build a hologram


Over at Bloomberg Businessweek today I predict that Apple will soon get in the television business, building real Apple-branded TV sets chasing $14 billion in subscription fees and ad revenue. The triggers for this article were both rumors that Apple’s pipeline suppliers are gearing up to build Apple TV units, and a patent that Apple won last year for a new form of 3D.

The patent is most interesting. It provides a wonderful analysis of what is wrong with current 3D systems: users wear expensive goggles, awkward, and without goggles two or more people can’t experience 3D at one time. Who wants to drink beers during the Super Bowl like that? Apple being Apple, it proposes a fantastic concept that would use Microsoft Kinect-type movement tracking to determine where your head is, and the head of each other user in the room, and then project separate beams of light to both of each user’s eyes to provide a truly holographic experience. Since your eyes are what make the world seem three-dimensional, if Apple’s set could follow you around the room and adjust the image to both eyes instantly, you’d see objects as clear as your desk or couch floating in space. The future of moving images would be perfected.

If this technology comes to market, it would revolutionize more than TV. Imagine having a teleconference with people from the other coast floating in the room. Telecommuting might finally explode. Plane travel could become a thing of the past. Luke’s twisted crush on his sister Princess Leia, when she first beamed out of R2D2, would finally be understandable.

Here are excerpts from the Apple patent, which you can find here.

The hologram would be different

A more recent and potentially much more realistic form of autostereoscopic display is the hologram. Holographic and pseudo-holographic displays output a partial light field that presents many different views simultaneously by effectively re-creating or simulating for the viewer the original light wavefront. The resulting imagery can be quite photorealistic, exhibiting occlusion and other viewpoint-dependent effects (e.g., reflection), as well as being independent of the viewer’s physical position. In fact, the viewer can move around to observe different aspects of the image.

The hologram would support multiple viewers

A concurrent continuing need is for such practical autostereoscopic 3D displays that can also accommodate multiple viewers independently and simultaneously. A particular advantage would be afforded if the need could be fulfilled to provide such simultaneous viewing in which each viewer could be presented with a uniquely customized autostereoscopic 3D image that could be entirely different from that being viewed simultaneously by any of the other viewers present, all within the same viewing environment, and all with complete freedom of movement therein.

Viewers could manipulate the 3D images

Yet another urgent need is for an unobtrusive 3D viewing device that combines feedback for optimizing the viewing experience in combination with provisions for 3D user input, thus enabling viewing and manipulation of virtual 3D objects in 3D space without the need for special viewing goggles or headgear…

The image recognition can be implemented to distinguish between observers and non-observers, so that images are projected only to the desired targets (i.e., to the actual observers that are present) having, for example, certain predetermined defining characteristics enabling them to be distinguished accordingly.

User recognition would support customization

Still further, individual observers 132 can not only be individually distinguished, detected, and tracked, but they can be uniquely identified based upon distinctive personal characteristics (e.g., height, shoulder width, distinctive outline, etc.). Personalized observer preferences can then be stored and associated with each such observer. Then, for example, upon entering the environment of the 3D display system 100, the system would recognize such an observer 132 and customize that observer’s experiences according to the unique preferences and parameters associated therewith. Examples would include automatically authenticating the observer, personally greeting the observer upon arrival, providing a customized desktop for just that observer, providing customized control responses (e.g., responses to head movements) for that observer, resuming the 3D display where it had been previously stopped, and so forth.


Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.


Sex, the savior of 3D

If you fret, like David Pogue of The New York Times, that post-Avatar 3D just isn’t catching on in homes, no worries. Penthouse and Playboy entered 2011 in a race to create the first three-dimensional porn TV channel. This is key because where pornography goes, other media follow.

Porn has been at the forefront of media for centuries. The daguerreotype, the first major photographic technique, was invented in 1835, and only 17 years later an estimated 40 percent of the photos sold in Paris were of nudes. Hot sales of risque books in the 1870s — more than 100,000 porn stories were bought each year in New York City — helped the publishing industry take root in America. Porn even decided which type of VCR you owned in the 1980s, after a Sony Beta and JVC VHS tape format battle. (Sony tried to prohibit porn on its tapes, JVC didn’t care, and the rest was history.) Which brings us to our century. Video formats have been stuttering online for a decade, but testing and enhancements by porn sites, competing furiously to give users the best viewing experience, helped refine the Internet streaming technology which allows you to watch clips at Hulu and CNN.com now.

So what could happen if Hugh Hefner and friends push porn into TV’s third dimension? No one admits to buying a $400 box just to watch sex, but innovation in the erotic arena could intrigue enough that device sales begin to scale. Analysts predict the piddly 3.2 million 3D TVs sold globally last year may grow to 91 million by 2014, but only if enough 3D content is produced to entice viewers. It’s no coincidence that the primary demo for porn and tech gadgetry is men in the prime of life. So if your hubby buys a 3D set for the basement, be proud — he’s likely an enthusiastic early adopter.

Image: Mi Pah

Tomorrow’s 3D, brought to you by the year 1862

Yeah, it’s goofy, but this ABBAWorld clip, where a man joins virtual renderings of the 1970s Swedish pop stars on stage, points to a future where you may be able to blend your physical reality with computerized fiction.

First, the technology. It’s quite old — a projection with the same visual trick that teleprompters use to make text appear to scroll on glass in front of a speaker’s podium. Holograms started back in 1862, when chemist John Henry Pepper was shocked to see a ghost float on stage. The apparition was an invention by Henry Dircks in which a large pane of glass was placed at a 45-degree angle to the audience, reflecting a brightly lit object hidden off to the side behind a curtain. When the lights came on the actor wearing a sheet hidden at stage left, the ghost seemed to suddenly appear on stage, poof, out of thin air.

Dircks’ approach, called the Dircksian Phantasmagoria, was extremely costly for theaters to replicate, but Pepper came up with a cheaper option — and as Pepper’s version spread across stages in the late 1800s, the technique became known as Pepper’s ghost. Today the small angled panes of glass in teleprompters use the same mirrored trick.

Recently Musion Eyeliner began recreating Pepper’s ghost in live performances using modern projectors to put holographic images on stage, such as this performance by Gorillaz at the Lisbon MTV Awards in 2005, or the ABBA dancing above. The technique allows artificial characters to blend with reality; the Gorillaz, for instance, is a virtual band, with British vocalist Damon Albarn being the only permanent member and cartoons representing the rotating artists behind the beats, and the group Genki Rockets similarly uses 3D projections to put its fictional lead singer Lumi on stage.

Holographic tricks will spread soon. IBM recently asked its researchers to forecast major technology trends for the next five years, and their consensus was mobile phones will project 3D images by 2015. Toshiba is developing flatscreen 3D TVs that do not require glasses. The visual push makes sense, with panel displays becoming so crisp that gadget-makers must move to stereoscopic projection as the next product differentiator.

So what happens if 3D scales everywhere? If fake images can be projected into thin air, we may finally enter the age where telecommuting takes off, or where the avatar you wish to be becomes the being you send into work or evening clubs. The Gibsonian concept of cyberspace may become real, with artifice melding with physical space. You could fly like Superman, hang out with a young version of your deceased father, chat with the stars, send a more muscular version of your body to the beach. The possibilities are endless — hopefully much more than dancing with ABBA.