The imminent arrival of 5G, enabling the use of advanced holographic technology could lead to a 10% reduction in traffic on Australian roads within 5-years, according to the CEO of Sydney based company Humense.
The Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality technology would create a surreal world where holographs would replace people at meetings, saving millions in transport, accomodation and congestion costs. It would also expand the sports entertainment world by enabling people to play alongside their heroes in a holographic world.
“If government and investors get behind holographic technology, we could see a dramatic reduction in road, rail and air travel very quickly,” said Scott O’Brien the founder of a leading AR & VR company, based in Sydney.
O’Brien, who was engaged to promote the blockbuster movie Transformers 3, believes holographic technology can reduce population densities in major Australian cities, and help to more fairly distribute higher incomes and opportunities to regional workers.
“Holographic meetings can partly replace travel as the 5G network provides the necessary bandwidth, which allows much larger amounts of data to be transferred,” said O’Brien. “This could be achieved in as little as a year.”
O’Brien is delighted that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has become Australia’s new congestion buster.
“If just 1% of the one hundred billion dollars, ear-marked to build more heat-trapping and heat-emitting roads, is channelled towards supporting this technology we will see a marked change in congestion – even within the Prime Minister’s first term,” said O’Brien.
Augmented reality is the integration of digital information with the user’s environment in real time. Unlike virtual reality, which creates a totally artificial, or digitally constructed environment, augmented reality uses the existing environment and overlays new information on top of it. VR & AR may co-exist.
“The technology already exists. Now we have the bandwidth and tools to deliver it.”
O’Brien says in the near future AR & VR eyewear will transport a smartphone viewer, onto a playing field or court during a game or test match.
“Can you imagine standing at the wicket as a cricket ball hurls at you at 150 kilometres an hour? Or, packing down in an emotion-charged scrum beside your rugby hero while you look into the whites of the eyes of your opponents?”
While the technology is expected to reach this level of sophistication in the near future the ‘whites of the eyes’ expression have scientific merit.
Neuroscience behind the technology
Video conferencing has been around since the Global Financial Crisis, and companies like Skype, Zoom and GoTo, have prospered.
But the 2D experience lacks a key element. Flat images and static objects engage the ventral pathway of the brain which ask, ‘what,’ while holographic, or AR and VR technology, engages the dorsal pathway, answering ‘how and why.’ The activation from spatial truth is crucial to build and accelerate human relationships and learning.
“Once we have spatial truth via the dorsal visual pathway, it’s the whites of our eyes contact that triggers neurotransmitters, which in turn leads to the release of oxytocin. This release is just not possible near the same threshold from a 2D interface. Oxytocin is the chief natural drug for trust, loyalty, persuasion and bonding – so holographic telepresence is somewhat a pharma like solution to human connection and potential,” said O’Brien. “The holographic experience we provide is hyper- realistic and as social beings our brains accept that experience in the present and as a sort of “awake dream” for recall.”
O’Brien’s thoughts are backed up by neuroscience. Research carried out by neuroscientists, developers and academics and published in a Meta Company Report concluded that humans were more accustomed to a 3D world.
“That’s why it’s often so tedious to hunch over a flat screen and confine our thoughts to windows, icons, and menus. We’re just not wired for it; our brains evolved to think spatially. With augmented reality (AR), we can use the space around us to visualize our imagination, organize our thoughts with our own hands, and share it all with our peers face-to-face. We call this the Spatial Interface, and it stands to replace the windows- and screen-based interface paradigm that has dominated computing…,”
Facts: As visual information exits the occipital lobe, and as sound leaves the phonological network, it follows two main pathways, or “streams”. The ventral stream (also known as the “what pathway”) is involved with object and visual identification and recognition. The dorsal stream (or, “where pathway”) is involved with processing the object’s spatial location relative to the viewer and with speech repetition.
Comparing the trillion dollar annual corporate flying industry, to a single digit billion video conferencing industry, O’Brien says that he believes that CEOs haven’t completely embraced 2D video conferencing because they want to press the flesh and look into a person’s eyes to give the brain the spatial data it craves for trust, loyalty, persuasion and bonding,
“This new technology can deliver that real experience with enough spatial truth that people in our VR naturally obey personal space, and other innate social contracts.”
He’s not alone in his enthusiasm for the potential of AR and VR technology.
As early as 2013 British MP, Andrew Mitchell complained to parliament about the cost of new transport infrastructure when he said;
“I simply don’t get the logic of spending £40 billion on [the HS2 rail project] when by 2033 it will be possible to talk to a perfect hologram of a person halfway around the world sitting on a chair in front of us.”
The NE contacted the Federal Minister for Transport, The Hon. Michael McCormack to check whether his policies or plans included any AR or VR technology. The office confirmed that while there were currently no plans to reduce congestion through the use of the holographic technology, the government is supportive of using new technologies as a way of reducing congestion.
“Last year, I announced the Government would invest $9.7 million to establish an Office of Future Transport Technology within my department, that is working closely with state and territory partners to prepare Australia for transport innovations, including wireless connectivity and automated vehicles,” Minister McCormack said.
The Transport Minister confirmed that congestion in Australian capital cities now costs $25 billion per year, a figure predicted to rise to $37 billion per year, by 2030.
“5G is one of the communication technologies that can enable vehicles to connect with each other and with infrastructure, such as traffic lights and speed signs. Enabling vehicles and infrastructure to talk to each other could allow us to pass much more quickly, efficiently and safely through intersections,” he said.
O’Brien is unsurprised that the ground-breaking technology is not yet on the government’s radar. He said government consultants and policy think tanks had examined the technology – but not for its congestion buster abilities.
“Even consultants like McKinsey, Goldman Sachs and the Grattan Institute have not put AR & VR technology and transport congestion together,” he said.
It is surprising that government hasn’t closely examined holographic technology given the success of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 2014 re-election campaign, when he appeared via hologram simultaneously at hundreds of rallies.
Modi’s government was re-elected after his campaign reached millions more voters in remote areas than his opponents.
Voters witnessed the hologram address at hundreds of remote sites across India where it was reported that many people stayed after the address to examine the stage, unconvinced the Prime Minister hadn’t attended the rally in person.
The campaign was so successful, politicians in France, Turkey and recently Indonesia have since experimented with holograms during their own campaigns.
O’Brien thinks while startup business hubs have been funded successfully by Australian governments, that investment should now be leveraged with AR & VR booths that produce holographic experiences connecting city, country and the world more effectively. These can enable and capture untapped potentials from outer suburbs and regional centres looking for a seat at the table in the big cities.
“These could be established at airports, train stations or even council community centres,” he said. “For example, if council sponsored hubs at Parramatta and in the Sydney CBD, it would save Western Sydney commuters from having to take gruelling long trips into the city, and important meetings could be enhanced with better tools than death by PowerPoint.
And, we know that the Sydney to Melbourne flight path is one of the busiest in the world. With holographic telepresence in the alternative transport mix, the time recouped for workplace productivity and improved family and community cohesiveness is priceless”.
While O’Brien is passionate about reducing travel, he’s also excited about the applications for sports entertainment providers.
“With augmented and virtual reality sports we expect Australian fans to leap at the opportunity to watch the match from the inside, instead of the outside,” he said.
“What would you pay to step on the field with Lionel Messi, or onto a court with Roger Federer? Imagine being in the ring with UFC champs and toe-to-toe with the top basketballers, badminton, boxers and cricket players of the world – past, and or, present.”
While many people are concerned about the effects of 5G, O’Brien says he smiles when he sees towers being erected atop Sydney’s tallest buildings. “The new 5G technologies have been extensively tested for safety and provide various levels of efficiency, compared to previous generations. I think the world is going to change for the better by orders of magnitude.”