Once confined to fantasy and science fiction, time travel is now simply an engineering problem. – Michio Kaku
Hey everyone: you heard it here first. That is, I’d like to pat myself on the back as having been the first person to cry “Eureka!”, describing how we (humanity) will engineer time travel. But perhaps if you’ve been studying the confluence of trends in AR and VR and IoT, perhaps we’ve all simultaneously thought of it together.
The gist of it is this: Augmented reality-assisted time travel. And it’s already in its infancy. And the way it will spool out from here will be suffused with deceptively complex technologies, but also crazy simple too.
In fact, it could be such a big deal as to demarcate history henceforth: BT and AT (before time travel and after time travel).
Here’s how it will work:
The Internet of Things will start blossoming into a ubiquitous environment of smart, “sensate” computing. Whether it’s at IoT end points, sensors, smart street monitors, next-gen fog, to mesh, edge, and the AR cloud, if we don’t build them, then, according to thinkers like Joseph Paradiso of the MIT Media Lab, “the cognitive engines of this everywhere-enabled world are deaf, dumb, and blind, and cannot respond relevantly to the real-world events that they aim to augment.”
In a coming world of pervasive augmented reality, you could theoretically dial up any of these inputs, from any time in future history and immerse yourself in a recreated (but real) past from any period in time that was “incepted” through these IoT sensors.
Think of it like a pervasive Google Streetview (for anywhere, any time, but dynamic – not a static picture), in which you could place yourself. Time, place, temperature, angle of the sun, season, sounds on the street, sound in the room… With enough fidelity, even down to the dust particles that – sourced from real reality, in a given time or place – that happened to be floating in a given shaft of sunlight streaming into the room.
Imagine it’s 2040. Want to time travel to the recent past and walk in the French Quarter of New Orleans on May 15th, 2029? Done. Want to know what it felt like to be at the top of Squaw Valley’s 9,050-ft. Granite Chief during the storm of the century on January 18th, 2033 (just before the avalanche wiped out the village below)? Strap in. Want to go back to grandma’s living room for that fun Christmas morning back in 2027, just before your brother left for college? Click here.
We have written about AR Journey Builders and Personal Memory Curators as jobs of the future that will likely make use of and leverage these possible pasts (or are they futures?) for specific ends. Black Mirror has, customarily, twisted such ideas into their logical Orwellian extension in excellent episodes like “Crocodile” and “The Entire History of You”.
Our take for the future of work was more upbeat: Consider the impact that a VR-enabled Personal Memory Curator could have to help alleviate some amount of these symptoms, for overall improved emotional health and wellness. (Made all the more poignant – and pressing – in the wake of the present, real-life destruction of the Bahamas in the wake of Hurricane Dorian).
How many of our fondest memories (say, from multiple holidays, birthdays, or graduations) from a treasured location (such as grandma’s living room, or your parents parlor, and/or your own home) have been serially uploaded – perhaps from multiple angles by several family members - into digital photo galleries or social media, and now exist – safely - in the cloud? What if you could further use the latest VR technologies to “re-skin” a virtually exact replication of the space? And then you could sit in it, hang out there, savor the simulation, spark joy and calm your anxieties, even if only for a little while?
In some ways, it won’t really be that sophisticated. We have had cameras on our mobile phones for over a decade. Sony HandyCams and their ilk were everywhere for 20 years prior to that. And likely your grandpa’s Super 8 going back to the days of Zapruder. But really, anything pre-2010 (that is, anything predating pre-digitalized photos) will be time-zero. Having said that, it’s entirely conceivable that algorithmic recreations of imagery from the “BT” will be possible (enter another vector of tasks for the AR Journey Builders of tomorrow).
The difference with the coming sensorium of the future is that the edge devices (not your Uncle Ed and his HandyCam of yesteryear, nor his latest iPhone incarnation) will do it for us. Constantly. Always, and forever. Ready for replay whenever you (or law enforcement) wants to plug in and travel to the reviewable past, where the future will be the past – coming soon to a period, place, or parlor near you.