Inside the Lab That Is Remaking Reality
The NYU Future Reality Lab is investigating AR and VR that consumers might actually want
The future of reality didn’t look like all that much the last time I saw it, to be honest: two 3D stick figures dancing, one making faster and more excited movements, the other a slow, sensual hip swing. Both of them were face-to-face, trying to get in sync with each other in a sparsely decorated virtual room displayed on a smartphone screen, like a small, bare bones, ultra low-stakes version of Tron.
But looks can be deceiving. And it’s not so much the figures or their little virtual world, but the team of real people who made them, and the underlying technologies, that could change how the rest of us experience reality.
That team is part of New York University’s (NYU) Future Reality Lab, a group of around 40 personnel, including NYU graduate and undergraduate students, who are developing a whole host of new technologies at the frontiers of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality.
“The Future Reality Lab is answering the question of: What is the future of everyday life when people’s senses are enhanced with visual, audio, and sensory experiences?”
Their overarching goal is to try to understand and usher in an era when virtual characters, worlds, and objects are no longer penned in our smartphones and computers, but one where they appear in front of us like holograms in the real world, brought to life through a new class of wearable devices.
“The Future Reality Lab is answering the question of: What is the future of everyday, ordinary life when people’s senses are enhanced with technological, visual, audio, and sensory experiences?” said Ken Perlin, the lab’s founder, director, and a longtime computer science professor at NYU. “That’s really our mission: What’s the future of normal reality?”
Perlin and his other faculty colleagues guide their students and in-house researchers as they build cutting-edge demos of what our future computing and digital media experiences will be like. This year, graduate students in Perlin’s course will be…