At the Facebook Developer Conference, F8, Mark Zuckerberg referenced the company's plans to develop technology that take data from a users activity on Virtual and Alternative Reality (VR and AR) platforms, and that information will be sold to the highest bidder. That, in itself, is kinda creepy and a good reason not to use the technology. However, technology developers want to embed the tech directly into the human body on a 24/7/365 basis. Yes, that's the stuff of religious zealot nightmares, but the intrusiveness doesn't bother me as much as the the fact that VR and AR are, for the most part, a software issue. And software development sucks.
VR and AR dominate tech news. Investment money is pouring in and there are breathless predictions of how it will be a major factor in everyone’s lives in the near future. There are two problems that will not be solved anytime soon that will severely hamper the expansion of the industry.
- The technology is and will continue to be very expensive for at least the next decade, meaning that it will be available only to 1 percent of the world population. That’s enough to be profitable but encourages a deepening of the divide between the haves and have-nots.
- The technology needs massive computing power to function at any semblance of efficiency on a wide scale, and that capacity does not yet exist in the world.
I've seen, read and written a lot of content about the first two problems, which are the two major reasons the technology will not see the light of day anytime soon. It is the problem software development, that has me most concerned at present.
The paradigm for software is to get it out the door as soon as possible and let the user base find the bugs for you. And there are a lot of bugs. For example, as soon as a major new video game is released, a software patch becomes immediately available for download. Without the patch, the video game is a piece of crap that freezes, jumps and jitters at crucial moments. As the user base finds more holes in the design, more patches are released along with a few additional features to make the user less inclined to throw the game platform out of a window.
This is fine because that is how the consumer has become used to electronic products. Now however, can you imagine what your life would be like with software developed by an overworked, exhausted coder controlling what you see and hear?
Imagine driving down I5 at 70 miles an hour when, suddenly, your AR equipped contact lenses pop up a "blue screen of death" in the middle of your site, and you are too far from a cell tower or a wifi connection to download the patch and reboot.
Imagine learning your bank account has been hacked through your VR system because the password was stolen and the thieves accessed your Facebook account, stole your retina scan information and fooled all your financial accounts into believe it was you.
They want to put that stuff into our heads. Think about that for a second.
Coding languages... all of them ... are not efficient as a whole. Some are better than others, but the most popular, like C++, are truly crappy. No one is developing a coding language that can be secure and easily fixable. There are holes and back doors in everything. There is no financial incentive to improve the security and engineers are notoriously adverse to changing methodologies once they find their comfort zone to the point that coder friendships sometimes rest on whether one developer uses a tab or a space at the end of a code line.
VR and AR will never achieve the adoption it's proponents envision until they solve these technical issues, but the damage they will do to those people that do embrace it will be inestimable.
The good news is that the government regulations, even in this "de-regulatory" attitude of this current administration, will never allow what the industry is proposing. Not in our lifetimes, at least.
Fix the problems, guys, and save us from the breathless hype in the meantime.