Leap Motion co-founder and Chief Technology Officer David Holz recently offered his vision of our weird future. And he took the long view, arguing that augmented reality and virtual reality will forever change what it means to be human.
During his presentation — within virtual reality, of course — Holz also divulged secrets from closed-door meetings at Leap Motion, detailing the company’s impressively precise, responsive hand-tracker for VR headsets. Essentially, it’s a tiny little sensor that can detect your hands, transmit their whereabouts and movements, and produce a simulacrum in the virtual space. Certainly, this device is incomparable – at this point – and no other company can rival it.
Holz didn’t stop there. He spun a wide narrative, saying that AR and VR will raise a new generation of humans – or “cyborg wizards.” After the existential, Holz turned to numbers and industry – and discussed as-of-yet unexplored territory, the profitable crossover of robotics and VR. We’ve assembled the highlights:
“I’m starting to see bits of it, but it’s something that everybody’s going to start to see very obviously in just the next few years.… Google put $500 million into Magic Leap, which works on transparent glasses. And then you see Alibaba, which is the China version of Amazon, put another $800 million into it. That’s just a little bit of ‘Oh my God’ happening in the background, but it’s ‘Oh my God’ happening behind closed doors, so most people don’t actually see it. But as that gets more and more out there, you can imagine everybody kind of collectively going, ‘Oh my God,’ and that’ll be really, really fun.”
What Has Holz Seen “Behind Closed Doors?”
Naturally, the audience wanted to know – what exactly has Holz seen behind these doors? Holz, after fielding this question, broke out in what can only be described as maniacal laughter. Then, he regained sanity and replied as best he could.
“There are AR headsets out there right now that have perfect form factors, meaning, like, they look like a pair of glasses, and you can’t tell. But, generally, in the process of getting a perfect form factor right now, you have to sacrifice the display quality.
“There are two different philosophies for AR companies right now. Either you think that the most important thing is form factor, or you think the most important thing is functionality.
“Behind closed doors, there are a lot of things that are really, really incredible — with some major tradeoff.”
More audience questions surfaced, and each time, Holz masterfully teased attendees with his insider knowledge. Yet he could hardly contain himself. Holz is passionate about AR and VR technology, and the future, so he did his best to strike a balance between saying just enough to keep his audience intrigued – and withholding enough to prevent a lawsuit.
AR Will Produce a “Fundamentally Different Type of Human”
When kids begin to play with galaxies and quantum particles instead of soccer balls, Holz explained, they’ll have an intuitive grasp of the physics. VR is “not just games,” Holz argued. “It’s not just entertainment, or social contact. It really changes the fundamental makeup — the fundamental stuff — of the world around us, and the human experience.” So, in 2030, “we will be different,” Holz noted. “You’ll have people who grew up their entire lives immersed in this digital-physical soup.”
And given the possibilities of the digital-physical soup, Holz wants others to understand just how influential this technology will be. “Too many people are thinking about, like, ‘How do I watch movies in VR?’ Not, like, ‘How do I do completely new things that I couldn’t do before.’” VR enables people to take very abstract ideas and make them concrete. When we are able to approach abstract problems from a physical, concrete perspective, we’ll become far superior at solving those problems.
Holz, it seems, can’t wait.
Robotics + AR / VR = Unexplored Potential
During his presentation, Holz mentioned two aspects of the impending crossover of robotics and VR most emphatically.
“The vision of robotics that I’m most interested in from a virtual reality standpoint is when you merge robotics with telepresence with manufacturing with artificial intelligence. So the idea is, like, I have a headset. All of a sudden, I look down — I have robot hands, and there’s an assembly line in front of me. The assembly line is moving, and I pick something up, put something together, and then I do it again.” And again, and again, and again. “And then I disconnect myself, and then the robot does it by itself from then on. In the process of being a robot, I’m actually teaching the robot how to do something without me.”
In other words, he wants man to interact with – and even teach – machine.
“The other thing I really like is telepresence for skilled labor. So, for example, if I am a guy who fixes jet engines, I could telepresence into a robot and fix a jet engine in Texas, and then fix a jet engine in San Francisco, and then fix a jet engine in Florida. And I could just be going around, beaming all around the world, fixing mechanical things in different places as if I’m there.”
Holz appears thrilled to be riding (or perhaps coasting along) the augmented and virtual reality wave that seems destined to flood the entire planet in a matter of years. In his talk, he predicted how fast that wave will rise up – and forecasted when it might come crashing down.
The fact that the event was in VR made for some amusing moments. There were a handful of audio and VR glitches and virtual slideshow snafus. Part of the audience, after losing Holz’s audio feed, tried to get his attention — but, since they were in VR, had few options. Many resorted to spamming emoji into the virtual air, hoping that Holz would get the message. And given that there’s a major element of anonymity in VR, the inevitable trolls appeared. (One man, at one point, just repeated “Saddam Hussein” several times.)
Holz, for his part, remained composed — even affable, cementing his privileged status as an insider and likable geek.
The full video is below: