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Minority Report-style technology arrives: Introducing hands-free touch-screen ‘ultrahaptics’

IT’S FREAKING HERE!!! #fangirling this hard. Apple I’m looking at you recruiting this genius!

Read full report: Independent UK

It goes by the decidedly unsexy name ‘ultrahaptics’, but a new technological prototype announced by researchers from the University of Bristol is reminiscent of the gloves Tom Cruise uses in sci-fi classic “Minority Report” – and is nothing short of astonishing.

The device is essentially a touchscreen so sensitive that a user doesn’t actually need to touch it. Instead, it is manipulated via the vibrations from soundwaves alone – and feedback from it can be ‘felt’ in mid air.

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[Week 5 Tute preparation] Owl City: ‘Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn’t wanna live there.’

This week concept of reality and its related ideas about Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) raise lots of questions that could possibly rework our beliefs about the real world we are living in. I want to focus this entry on the AR – the ‘mediated reality’, and the current world we perceive. With a ‘small’ touch of technologies and theoretical concepts such as Baudrillard’s notion of simulacra – ‘a model for behaviour, perceptions, knowledge of the world, sense of self, reality itself’ (pp. 15 – 16); and the ‘hyperreal condition’ (pp. 16) (cited in Murphie & Potts 2003), we can see the confusion between the observable reality and its so-called alternate universe.

One of the debatable topics withdrawing from the guideline is the positioning of the media in the virtual world. It is argued that whether the media facilitates the making of such world or just simply a means to access the already-available-yet-inaccessible-until-now world. Classic examples about the changes in technology can be found mostly in science fiction movies. Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report in 2002, whose setting is in 2054, presents the exciting augmented reality with technologies such as multi-touch interface; retina scanners or just simple personal advertising by using existing customer database. At that time people might predict that those things were something unachievable, yet it is only 2013 and we have all of those under our control.

Going back to Baudrillard’s notion of simulacra, it is clearly seen that the augmented reality portrayed in the movie had the massive ‘Star Trek effect‘, which facilitates the make-believe dreams to become the reality:

‘If you show off imaginary cool technology in a film or TV series, then kids, teenagers and enthusiastic technologists of all ages will try their damnedest to make it come true… That’s the future I want to live in.’

(Arthur 2010)

Linking to the ‘hyperreal condition’ – ‘the presentation of the real comes before the real, so that it becomes the real’ (Baudrillard, cited in Murphie & Potts 2003, pp. 16), Minority Report has made the statement: ‘The future is here’ (Steven Spielberg, quoted in Arthur 2010). This implies the needs of knowledge and technologies at the same time. Those two elements help us to get to the year 2054 over 30 years sooner.

It is obvious that the making of virtual world and the key to access to the virtual world happen at the same time. On one hand, the media acts as a medium for people to experience modern ways of living just by simulating, visualising and so forth. One the other hand, it creates motivation to make the hyperreal real by exposing ideas to its audiences.

In the end of the day, we are still living in our own reality world, but we continuously move forward, modify our future.

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Anon. n/a, ‘Augmented Reality’, Wikipedia, accessed on 8 April 2013, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augmented_reality>.

Arthur, C. 2010, ‘Why Minority Report was spot on’, The Guardian, 16 June, accessed on 8 April 2013, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jun/16/minority-report-technology-comes-true>.

Murphie, A. & Potts, J. 2003, ‘Theoretical Frameworks’, Culture and Technology, London: Palgrave Macmillan: pp. 11 – 38.